Gone are the days of ‘mere paas maa hai’. A more likely response today to Amitabh Bachchan’s quintessential boast of a question asking ‘tumhare pass kya hai’ would be: mere paas atom bomb hai!
A nuclear bomb is not a thing to hide anymore; it is the flavour of the season and every country that has it must flaunt it, or better still, threaten the enemy with it. After Imran Khan’s muscle-flexing over being the ruler of a ‘nuclear-powered state’, his railway minister now openly talks about hitting a targeted area in India by using the “pao aadha pao (125-250 gm) atom bombs” that Pakistan reportedly possesses.
Nuclear doctrine, they say, is a serious subject. But considering how loosely the words atomic bomb and nuclear war are used in political discourse today, it would seem dealing with a nuke is more like a child’s play.
Tauba Tauba, atomic bomb?
Part of the credit should go to a TV reporter in Pakistan. In February this year, soon after India’s threat of putting an embargo on export of tomatoes following the Pulwama attack, a Pakistani TV reporter led the charge – and journalists on both sides of the border since then haven’t given up on urging their respective governments to wage a war, nuclear or not. The reporter was so upset with the Indian government’s threat that he went nuclear with tamatar ka jawaab atom bomb se deynge (atom bomb for tomatoes). It was as if he would pluck an atomic bomb from his kitchen garden and drop it at the Line of Control. He looked compelling though, as he repeatedly said ‘tauba tauba’.
Six months later, the tauba tauba reporter is back. No, he doesn’t want tomatoes from India. In a new clip viral on social media, he is asking Prime Minister Imran Khan to drop nuclear bombs on New Delhi, which has imposed a communication blockade in Kashmir since August 5. “If Kashmir is in sorrow, then every Indian child must feel the pain,” the reporter said. How simple things are in his head.
In this tight contest of “on whose urging will the atomic bomb drop”, it’s the ever-popular Sheikh Rasheed, the railway minister who seems to be way ahead of the rest. And why wouldn’t he be – the minister likes to call himself the “GHQ ka banda” or the “General without a uniform”.
After the Pulwama attack, Sheikh sat in his office and threatened India that he has not worn bangles and that if anyone looks at Pakistan with malice, those eyes will be gouged out. Making his threat nuclear, he went on to say, “Neither will you [India] have prosperity nor will bells chime in your temples.”
The K-bomb Modi gave
The Narendra Modi government’s decision to abrogate Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, has given motormouths like Sheikh a new life. One day, he tells people that Pakistan has smart bomb; the next day he is reminding India about the bombs weighing ‘pao aadha pao’. While we were still recovering from this piece of information, Rasheed has since declared that Pakistan was facing an existential threat and an atomic war was the only option. When the rattled news anchor Saleem Safi asked “atomic war?”, the minister said, “Woh smart war.” Now, what is a smart war? “Smart bomb keh diya, jo marzi usko naam do.” Yes, you can call it whatever you want. It is a bomb and it will cause a war, so be content.
In this madness, Rasheed says Pakistan doesn’t have a way out. But he himself had taken the first flight out of Pakistan in 1998, when the country under Nawaz Sharif was going to carry out the nuclear test. He said that he ran away out of fear. “Woh patakha aagey peechey ho jaaye, kahin se leakage ho jaaye.” Yes, he was that scared of nuclear test.
Sheikh Rasheed’s current boss Imran Khan tells the world in his speeches, addresses and now an op-ed that the region of Pakistan faces a nuclear threat. I agree, the region faces a grave threat from Khan’s own ministers and his tweets. If only Khan’s tweets were nuclear, we all would have evaporated by now. While Modi travels the world, Khan only tweets.
Former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s famous remark in a 1965 interview, “If India builds the (nuclear) bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. We have no alternative!”, has been repeatedly cited to emphasise the significance of Pakistan becoming a nuclear power – the seventh in the world. But its rhetoric soon became bizarre. Former defence analyst and Pakistan Army general Hamid Gul’s fascination of using the atomic bomb reference is well known: “We have the nuclear capability that can destroy Madras (Chennai); surely the same missile can do the same to Tel Aviv.”
What does a nuclear bomb do?
The religious parties loved to call it an “Islamic bomb”. They said they owned it and they will use it whenever they want. Like Khadim Hussain Rizvi said, “If I’m given the atom bomb, I would wipe Holland off from the face of the earth before they can hold a competition of caricatures (of prophet Muhammad).”
So, leave its usage alone, even the distance and the destination of Pakistan’s atomic bombs will be determined by the war mongers. Of course, India and Israel are the most favoured nations.
What is an atomic bomb, after all? It is not a decorative piece to be kept in your drawing room, it is not something to be used on Shab-e-Baraat, or at marriage ceremonies. Who wants to nuke weddings? All these phrases and many other like these show the amount of confusion there is regarding the destruction the atomic bomb causes. Does it matter? All that matters is that we can assume there are pretty little bombs that, if we wanted, we could have in our drawing rooms and use them whenever, and on whomsoever, we want.
As columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee would remind us in the monsoon season, “Sala, you can’t make gutters, you’re making atom bomb. You add more gravel in the cement and then write Mashallah on the building.”
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.