Washington: Pakistan`s nuclear arsenal has prevented a conventional war with India and made the "nation walk with heads held high", boasts notorious Pakistani scientist AQ Khan, considered the father of Islamabad`s clandestine nuclear weapons programme.
"Our nuclear programme has ensured our survival, our security, and our sovereignty ... I am proud to have contributed to it together with my patriotic and able colleagues," the man accused of running a nuclear black market said in a published interview.
"Yes, I fully agree," he said in the interview published in the inaugural issue of `Newsweek Pakistan` when told that most Pakistanis believe Pakistan`s being a nuclear state has served as a deterrent to conventional war with India.
Asked to comment on the popular theory that Pakistan is a nation with no sustainable identity, Khan said: "Pakistan was not an artificially created country. We, the Muslims in India, were a separate nation with a distinct culture, history, social order, and heritage."
"By any definition we were a nation. Unfortunately, selfish, narrow-minded leaders broke it into ethnic groups, which led to exploitation. Nuclear weapons made the nation walk with heads held high."
Rejecting fears that nuclear weapons can fall into the wrong hands as "a Western myth and one of their phobias”, Khan said: "A nuclear weapon - good or dirty - is a highly complicated and sophisticated device. A large number of parts are needed, and expertise is required to assemble such a device."
"Even scientists and engineers without the relevant experience are not able to do this, let alone to talk of illiterate, untrained terrorists."
Describing the Afghan war as a blessing for Pakistan`s nuclear programme, Khan said: "It was not that the Western countries actively supported it but that they were too scared and occupied with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and its future consequences to actively oppose it."
"Neither the Americans nor the British had a clue about the status of our programme until 1990," Khan claimed. But After the Afghan war, they slapped sanctions on Pakistan to extract concessions from Benazir Bhutto`s government, but then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and then Army chief Gen Aslam Beg "frustrated their nefarious designs”.
"The term `Islamic Bomb` was mischievously coined by the Western world to frighten the rest of the world and to portray Muslims, and Pakistan, as terrorists who should not possess an atom bomb," he said. "The Western world is united in Muslim-bashing and ridiculing Islam and its golden values."
Khan also accused the American and British intelligence agencies of trying "to bribe and buy two of our scientists, who refused all sorts of incentives and reported the matter to me."
"Nobody ever penetrated Kahuta (the site of Pakistan`s main nuclear facility), nor could they do so," he said suggesting, "The Americans, contrary to their tall claims, were totally in the dark about the status of our programme."
"Majors - or even generals, for that matter - had no access to sensitive and classified information ... (Kahuta) or PAEC (Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission) were never a department store where one could go and pick up a bomb!" Khan said.