Recently, Shah Meer Baloch wrote, what seemed a politically influenced article for the Diplomat. It starts with an intuitive statement; which is merely a narrative of a group in population across Baluchistan and not even properly substantiated. Author portray as if the district or entire provincial population is affected by the 28th May 1998 Chagai nuclear tests’ radiation release. Then how ironic is that Pakistan and China are building there most expensive infrastructure project, CPEC, in a radiation rich region.
After reading the article the first thing that comes into your mind is that Kulbhushan and Indian backed terrorist groups were wearing gas masks, during planning and executing their sabotage plots in the Baluchistan. Factually, there is no radiation exposure in the area; neither in Chagai nor in nearby areas.
Without representing facts, he claimed that the locals of Baluchistan still suffer because of the nuclear explosions the Pakistani government set off in the Ras Koh Mountains 19 years ago. Ras Koh is an entirely uninhabited area and situated in Chagai District, where western NGOs are effusively active.
Notwithstanding, nobody ever file a genuine objection that locals are being effected by radiation fallout of nuclear testing in 1998.
The author made claims of Baloch resistance to nuclear testing by deliberating the incident of hijacking of PIA Flight 554 by Indian backed terrorists in on May 24, 1998. What make us wonder is that, author developed his argument by asserting that Pakistan should accept that Indian backed militants demanded not to detonate nuclear weapons. Why were those so-called Baloch were Indian terrorists? Because the hijackers forced the pilot to enter India from anywhere, while the pilot was given the permission from the Indian Government.
It is very important to discuss here that underground testing is much safer than aboveground testing and with underground testing, it is easy to contain the radiation. In Pakistani case, it was not done in haste though in response to India’s own 12 May tests. The selection of site, deep digging of the hills, preparations for detonation, etc had been made long before 1984. Besides, all kind of collateral damage, aftershocks, effects and causes had already been evaluated and calculated.
The PAEC team comprising Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad, Member (Technical) and Dr. Ahsan Mubarak started the operational reconnaissance of some areas in Balochistan in 1976. Over a span of three days, the PAEC scientists made several reconnaissance tours of the area between Turbat, Awaran and Khusdar in the south and Naukundi-Kharan in the east.
After a hectic and careful search, they found a mountain which matched their specifications. This was a 185-metre high granite mountain in the Ras Koh Hills in the Chagai Division of Balochistan which at their highest point rise to a height of 3,009 metres. Ras Koh Hills are independent of and should not be confused with the Chagai Hills further north on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, in which, to date, no nuclear test activity has taken place.
The PAEC requirement was that the mountain should be “bone dry” and capable of withstanding a 20 kiloton nuclear explosion from the inside. Tests were conducted to measure the water content of the mountains and the surrounding area and to measure the capability of the mountain’s rock to withstand a nuclear test. Once this was confirmed, Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed commenced work on a three-dimensional survey of the area. After this completely extensive and hectic survey, Pakistani government commenced the work on tunnel buildup and rescue plans were prepared in advance.
The rescue plans are said to be still ready but the detonations of 1998 were so sophisticated like that of the highly upgraded technology Pakistan used that not a single individual of the population got affected. Shah Meer should have taken some radiation readings from a simple device like “Geiger-Counter” before publishing the article. Rather than publishing fake stories, regarding Pakistan’s nuclear testing, “The Diplomat” must take into account the aggravated fears of the villages in the vicinity of the Pokhran test range, which have long fallen out of the international spotlight.
*Anaya Shahid graduated from Defence & Diplomatic Studies, Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi.