Pakistanis celebrate Youm-e-Takbir

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The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) recently organized a symposium in Jeddah titled “Nuclear technology – our need and obligation” to mark the 20th anniversary of Pakistan’s detonation of its first nuclear bomb. This day is known as Youm-e-Takbir (Day of Greatness) when the country entered the nuclear club in 1998.

There had been pressure from Western powers against detonating nuclear devices but the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif defied this pressure by stating that it was a matter of life and death for the nation, and that it was a non-negotiable issue as far as Pakistan was concerned.

Prominent leaders of the Pakistani community in Jeddah attended the symposium, which began with the recitation of a few verses from the Holy Qur’an. Hamid Islam, deputy convener of PRC, opened the symposium, saying that the purpose of nuclear technology should not be limited to defense, but that it should also be used for peaceful purposes, especially for generating electricity as well as for agriculture, medicine and other areas. He also called for the repatriation and rehabilitation of stranded Pakistanis as well as for mounting pressure on India to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir.

In his speech, Choudhry Riaz Ghumman praised the PRC for holding the symposium on a very important topic. Shamsuddin Altaf, who spoke in Arabic, thanked the organizers of the event. Addressing the gathering, Tayyab Mosani urged the Pakistan government to take swift steps for the repatriation of stranded Pakistanis. Akram Agha, another speaker, paid rich tribute to Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, for his outstanding contributions and for the remarkable achievements made by Pakistan in the nuclear field.

When my turn came to deliver the presidential speech, I thanked the PRC and its officials for organizing the symposium to celebrate the great occasion. It is well known that a nuclear program, apart from its key role in the areas of defense and the balance of power, has great benefits in the peaceful use of nuclear technology, especially in vital areas such as health, agriculture, energy, water and other fields. We hope that Pakistan will achieve success in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

I also pointed to the significant role played by Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan in the success of Pakistan’s nuclear program. His knowledge and experience should be used in the training of young people from Pakistan and other Muslim countries. I also emphasized that this could be achieved through the establishment of a university named after this renowned nuclear scientist targeting young people and researchers from all countries in the Muslim world.

I also drew attention to the recurring problem for Pakistanis who have been stranded in Bangladesh since the secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan. Around a quarter of a million of Pakistanis are languishing in squalid camps without having even the basic amenities of life and these people remain in their camps with the hope that one day they will be repatriated to Pakistan. These people consider themselves to be Pakistanis after their migration to Pakistan from their native places in the eastern part of India. By standing along with the Pakistan army during the civil war, they made great sacrifices for maintaining a united Pakistan. When East Pakistan seceded and Bangladesh came into being as an independent nation, these people were considered traitors and unwelcome in Bangladesh. They were expelled from their homes and forced to live in camps waiting to be repatriated to Pakistan.

But unfortunately, this is yet to happen. Serious attempts were made for repatriation and rehabilitation during the time of President Gen. Zia-Ul-Haq. He took the initiative to set up an endowment fund called the Rabita Fund with the cooperation of the Muslim World League (Rabita) when Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef was its secretary general. The purpose of this endowment was to support the repatriation and rehabilitation of these stranded Pakistanis on land donated by the Punjab provincial government. However, the activities of the fund came to a halt following the death of Zia. Later, there were attempts to revive the fund during the first and second tenures of Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister of Pakistan but this ended in failure following the military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf.

However, when Sharif returned to power for a third time, the stranded Pakistani community and all those supporting them had great hope that this would be one of his priorities. But unfortunately, he failed to do anything about it.

The issue of the stranded Pakistanis continues to be an insoluble problem and the Pakistan government has a national humanitarian and moral responsibility to address this issue. I renewed the call for taking steps to issue passports to these Pakistanis so that they could travel and perhaps solve their problem by themselves without any cost to the Pakistani government.

Concluding the symposium, PRC Convener Syed Ehsanul Haque thanked the speakers and all guests for their participation in the event. He called on the Pakistan government to establish a Nuclear Research University under the name of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. Haque also called for exercising pressure on international organizations to compel India to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir. He underlined the need for reviving the process of repatriation and rehabilitation of stranded Pakistanis. To overcome the lack of funds, he suggested the implementation of an earlier PRC proposal for the settlement of the problem of stranded Pakistanis on a self-finance basis. The Pakistani High Commission in Dhaka should be assigned to take care of the food, health and security of these people until the time of their repatriation, he added.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com


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