Pervez Hoodbhoy's Astonishing Assertions and the Future of the World

Last updated on Jun 17, 2009

Posted on Jun 17, 2009

I read an interesting article [1] from Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.  Dr. Hoodbhoy is a top Pakistani Nuke Scientist and is currently the Professor of High Energy Physics, and the head of the Physics Department at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.  He is also a social activist and has been a critic of the Nuclear programs of India and Pakistan both.

He is an intellectual and a sane voice in otherwise paranoid Pakistani analyst community, there are many who are his critics in his own country, which is expected.

I find his article expressing his thoughts but also fighting against the impressions that he has to give to not invite rash criticism.  In doing that, he has written a rather contradictory piece in itself.  These contradictions are the bane of any sane Pakistani analyst, for the rabid ones who are prone to controversy theories have no such qualms.  They are fanatics and their agenda is clear.  That they keep contradicting themselves in every interview is another matter.  For example, Zaid Hamid and Hamid Gul keep labeling people they want to be seen as bad at any time as zionists or Hindu agents while these may be the same people they may have lived and worked with almost half of their lives.  But that is how they are.  I would have expected a little more openness from Dr. Hoodbhoy though..specially given the fact that he is from the Nuclear power elite in that country and no one knows the mess that is prevalent in that country as that part of the administration does.

He starts off the piece by making some assertions, which are at best half-hearted:

First, the bottom line: Pakistan will not break up; there will not be another military coup; the Taliban will not seize the presidency; Pakistan’s nuclear weapons will not go astray; and the Islamic sharia will not become the law of the land.

Why are they half hearted?  Well, somewhere down the line he makes further assertions:

One could imagine that Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is overthrown in a coup by radical Islamist officers who seize control of the country’s nuclear weapons, making intervention by outside forces impossible.


Although better financial monitoring is needed, Pakistan’s support lifeline must not be cut, or economic collapse (and certain Taliban victory) would follow in a matter of months.

Ok, so what is it that he is saying?  Is Taliban victory imminent or not?  Is the possibility of Nukes falling in the Fanatics’ hands a certainty or not?  There are obvious pre-conditions that he talks about, but they are not all that unlikely!  In fact, the economic collapse of Pakistan is ONLY delayed by the doles of the foreign powers.  If US recession turns bad tomorrow, the chances are that it may be a VERY likely scenario!

So, despite his early assertion, which are not as unequivical as he initially makes them out to be, the truth is that the worst case scenario MAY NOT be a worst case scenario but a realistic scenario.

He also tries to defend how the Nukes falling into the hands of the Taliban is improbable but then in the end leaves one with a very bad feeling that he himself may not believe in what he is saying:

As for the future: Tribal insurgents cannot overrun Islamabad and Pakistan’s main cities, which are protected by thousands of heavily armed military and paramilitary troops. Rogue elements within the military and intelligence agencies have instigated or organized suicide attacks against their own colleagues. Now, dazed by the brutality of these attacks, the officer corps finally appears to be moving away from its earlier sympathy and support for extremism. This makes a seizure of the nuclear arsenal improbable. But Pakistan’s “urban Taliban,” rather than illiterate tribal fighters, pose a nuclear risk. There are indeed more than a few scientists and engineers in the nuclear establishment with extreme religious views.

Now, read the sentence in bold in the middle of the para and the last sentence – if Pakistan’s top Nuclear Scientist makes that statement in that authoritative a way and with the “understatement” written all over it (underlined emphasizes this adequately), then who can?  Does the entire paragraph make any sense in the light of the last statement?

To me the statement that elements within the military (Pak Army) and the Intelligence Agencies (ISI) have orchestrated suicide attacks against their own colleagues is VERY serious and astonishing to say the least!  Mind you, he is not an old retired hag making these statements.. but an engaged scientist in the what goes on in the country.

I have an issue with an oft-repeated pet peeve of many a Pakistanis, which I have highlighted in the para below.

In spite of being on the U.S. dole, Pakistan is probably the most anti-American country in the world. It has a long litany of grievances. Some are pan-Islamic, but others derive from its bitter experiences of being a U.S. ally in the 1980s. Once at the cutting edge of the U.S. organized jihad against the Soviet Union, Pakistan was dumped once the war was over and left to deal with numerous toxic consequences.

Now, given the post that I wrote about how US White House and State Department systematically helped and bolstered Pakistani Nuclear program AND turned the eyes away (deliberately) while it proliferated the Nukes to decidedly rogue nations (North Korea and Iran DEFINITELY – and ostensibly to Saudi Arabia and Libya as well), isn’t it rather un-grateful for any nation and its people to then turn around and say they were DUMPED?

All you have to do to understand how lunatic this peeve of Pakistanis is to go to Montana and visit Richard Barlow in his trailer and see what an expose on Pakistan could do to a decorated CIA analyst IN US.. BY US!!

Through the 1980s and the 1990s, the perfidy of the State Department against its OWN country and in favor of Pakistan is so apparent and sick that it is mind-blowing!  India’s nuclear tests in 1998 did more than demonstrate India’s nuclear power.. they were done primarily to put the GAZE and FOCUS on this mess that was being orchestrated in South Asia with the connivance of US and China, while the US public was taken for a ride.  The Indian Nuke tests in 1998 actually may end up SAVING the US and the world from disasters that could now be averted.

The rampant proliferation that was happening before them and would have continued was SURE to have created havoc with the world sooner.  In fact, the Americans should be thankful to India for those tests, for if those hadn’t happened, then in all likelihood the Al Qaeda would not have done a 9-11, but an actual Nuke attack… and 3000 dead would have looked like chump-change, such would have been the magnitude of that disaster.   I am certain that this was the direction in which AQ Khan and the rest of these people were going towards.

Given this background – of a possible Taliban victory in the face of economic collapse, rogue elements in ISI and Pak Army taking over Nukes and something even worse, ISI and Pak Army fanatics killing their own colleagues – where does that leave Pakistan… and worse South Asia.  For it surely underscores one major thing – that there is a internal power struggle going on.  No, I am not talking between Pak Army and Taliban.. but Pak Army AND Pak Army.. ISI AND ISI… Politicians AND Politicians.  Who will win and when?  When US finances Pakistan… whom do they finance?  And if Pakistan “wins” … who wins?

These are serious questions.  I know there are ample Indian nuts – some who comment here as well – who are wont to treat these issues with the frivolity that many in India’s intelligentsia do or in other countries as well.  But the truth is that going to the heart of these issues will indeed have a DECIDING bearing on the future of MODERN CIVILIZATION itself!

Reference Links:

1. Whither Pakistan? A five-year forecast

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