Archive for June 17th, 2009

Opportunities lost

June 17th, 2009

Pakistan’s acquisition of military nuclear technology was a gigantic step in the right direction whereas the failure to develop nuclear power generation simultaneously was an equally gigantic neglect. Especially so when the base for this had been laid as far back as 1971 when KANUPP was made operational. Thereafter, efforts at developing nuclear power generation ought to have moved parallel to the military-oriented nuclear programme, but this did not happen. Chashma Unit 1 got operational in 2000 and Chashma 2 will get on the national electricity grid in 2011. By then they will not be able to account for even two percent of the nation’s electricity requirement.

Canada would never have facilitated the commissioning of KANUPP at Karachi if the world had not let it do so. Furthermore, during Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s tenure as prime minister, France had agreed to set up nuclear power plants in Pakistan. That this French offer did not materialise was because of our adverse political situation, with Zia-ul-Haq military coup removing Mr Bhutto from power.

Hope was again revived in February 1989, three months into Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s first government when President Francois Mitterrand of France flew into Islamabad to hold a joint press conference with her in order to announce a renewal of the French offer made to her father regarding the nuclear power plants. President Mitterrand did this despite international pressures not to go into such a venture with Pakistan. This was another opportunity lost. By the middle of 1989 it had become clear that Ms Bhutto’s government was not going to be allowed to last. The first blow was dealt to her government on Oct 23, 1989, when a conspiratorially generated vote of no-confidence was tabled against her. That she survived that vote is history to which I am a witness as one of her closest confidantes of that time. However, all that political turmoil in Pakistan put the French nuclear power plants offer on hold once again.
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