Monday, July 27, 2009

The nuclear story: what you didn't know.

You know where this story began.

1947: Pakistan emerged as the loser in a process of unequal partition. The British who had played the role of imperial masters for a century were suddenly in such a hurry to leave that territorial conflict brewed in what was once the gem in their crown. Kashmir and East Pakistan were sore spots from the inception.

Till the 1960s, Pakistan harboured a healthy military alliance with the US, one that fed its armed forces and conflict with India. But that was when this marriage of convenience underwent tension. By 1964, the US was supremely unpleased with it's former "most allied ally": Pakistan had failed to send troops in Laos, generate good publicity for the American debacle in Vietnam and was suspected of forging a secret alliance with China. Things did not improve when Pakistan used US-supplied weapons against India in 1965. The US refused to help. Pakistan was embittered. Sanctions followed.

East Pakistan was wrenched free from West Pakistan into Bangladesh with not little help from India in 1971. The Dacca racecourse surrender was humiliating at best for a country whose corrupt politicians had cashed on the rivalry against India to hoard votes. Ever the opportunist, Bhutto seized the moment.

It was against this palate that India hot-tested in 1974 . The test beneath the western deserts of Rajasthan was unauthorized and a betrayal of India's sponsors in the West and the East who had let the knowledge loose to help meet energy needs. While it might have been a strategic tactic for India, an arms race in the subcontinent was only natural as the world would see the two habitual enemies fight it out for regional supremacy. But the nuclear states became the ever-cautious vigilantes. Sale of nuclear components became strictly monitored and the IAEA would make Pakistan's nuclear ambitions doubly hard. Interestingly, no sanctions were imposed on India or on the nuclear states that had led it to this point. The world insisted that India's aspirations were purely peaceful. Agha Shahi recommended exploitation of the same logic without fear of sanctions. A peaceful nuclear programme, he said. Just like India. You can guess how many votes he got.

A diplomatic solution might have been in order. Pakistan sought a nuclear umbrella from the US, an expectation of guarantor against attack (something the US is willing to grant against Iran now!), but the US turned it away cold. Kissinger said that the Indian bomb was "a fait accompli and that Pakistan would have to learn to live with it." A hollow position, as they themselves knew.

And it was two months later that A.Q. Khan's fateful letter reached Bhutto.

History was to see an angry young man become a hero, the hero become a god, the god hatched a grand deception and this deception will fuel all our future wars.

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If you liked this, you should read 'Deception' by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott Clark.

Friday, July 3, 2009

"Like a shipwreck, we die inwards.."

Ten is not too old to be insecure. Not that it matters.

Her hair was cropped right below the ears in a fashion that would have been austere had it not been so unmanageable, wild. She was convinced she was born with those deep dark circles around her eyes. Dark-ish, she thought. Not thin, with arms as hairy as a boy's. Never likely to become a model or be loved because she didn't look like the girls who get a Happily Ever After and therefore didn't deserve it. Mirrors didn't feign captivation and no boys ever bothered. She was smart, but that doesn't really count. And so at ten, she could only reason that it had been a profound expression of love.

He looked like Shahrukh Khan, smiled like him, wore his hair and his clothes like him. A real charmer, incredibly nice, incredibly handsome, incredibly.. incredible. Sure, he was her cousin and was eight years older than her but he was always so nice, so attentive. He would have water fights with her and take her on his bicycle to buy ice cream at any hour. What more could a girl want?

On June nights when the heat was churning with a vengeance, they all slept in a small room together. His mother, her khala, who doted on her, and his sister, on the bed. And on a double mattress on the ground, the two of them slept. Him and her. As the cooler coughed out spurts of cold, cold air, she used to lie and conjure all sorts of fantasies and dreams. When she was older, she was going to be beautiful and all the boys who made fun of her now would double back and see her as she walked by in elegant indifference.

And on that sickly June night, when the mother and the sister were sleeping and the room resounded with their not-so-feminine-snores, he turned to her on the mattress and slid his hand around her waist. She stopped breathing. He inched closer till she could feel his breath on her face. Existence slammed upon her. In the darkness, she could make out the rough shape of him. Her heart beat faster than their snores. Louder. What's he doing?!

With disdainful ease, he pulled her closer and bought his lips down on hers. She felt shock, alarm, revulsion, and a hateful need to be loved. She shivered with the impact of it. She did not understand, did not fully know what was going on. She closed her eyes to the darkness, to what he was doing to her. The realisation of it all made her gasp and he smoothly glided his tongue in her mouth. Helovesmehelovesmehelovesme, she kept thinking. She was so, so scared. Please, please stop. Please make it stop. They're on the bed. Please wake up. Make it stop. Someone.. Oh my God.. oh-oh-oh my Goddd..

His hands went around her, in her loathsome hair, forcing her nearer and nearer. They explored, they punished, they did not ask forgiveness.
Helovesmehelovesmehelovesme. Close your eyes tighter. It'll all be over soon. It'll be over.

His hands started doing new things and filled her with alien feelings.
Helovesmehelovesmehelovesme. Her mind screamed but she was too scared to push him off, to offer any resistance. She shivered under it all but she couldn't make it stop.

Help me God. Please help me. You cruel, cruel God. Help me. Make it stop. Make it stop. MAKE IT STOP.

He shifted his weight on her and she didn't know what to do. Helovesmehelovesmehelovesme. What did anyone do when they were kissed? Would it be worse if he stopped or if he didn't? Would he stop loving her? What do you grope in a ten-year-old? She didn't have anything yet and especially not coherence. You sick sick sick bastard stop. Your mother.. your sister.. STOP!!

After a while, he slowly began to withdraw. Had his hands and mouth had enough? Did this mean he had stopped loving her? He lowered her shirt into place and turned around and went to sleep. Had she offended him somehow? When she heard his snoring, she turned around and started to weep into the pillow, hoping she wasn't making a sound.

She didn't know what to do or who to tell. His mother and sister had been there all along. Did they know?? What if they stopped loving her? What about her father? He didn't even let her talk to boys. He'd be so angry. He would lock her up and cut off her hair and shoot her through the heart. Would her own father kill her? or would he bury her alive? And her mother.. her poor, poor mother.. she had brought shame to everyone. She hated herself. It had been her fault. If only she could have snapped his arm off. If only she wasn't there at that horrible night. If only she wasn't a girl..If only she wasn't so ugly. If only she didn't want to be loved. If only God had done something.

At thirteen, she felt betrayed when he got engaged. In another couple of years, she felt dirty, used. But silence was the price life seemed to exact out of all women.
"Like a shipwreck, we die inwards". And so, he kept his knowledge and she kept her silence.