Youm-e-Takbir : when my country became great
The first time I addressed a crowd was on occasion of Youm-e-Takbir. I must have been six or seven years old, but I remember it so vividly- rows and rows of faces turned up at me as I stood there on stage at school, and paid tribute to Pakistan’s greatness. We had just been declared a nuclear power, and the entire nation was celebrating. I wonder today what will define our greatness ten, twenty, fifty years from now.
28 May marks the day Pakistan joined the league of nuclear states. Like 8 other countries- we too have the power to incinerate entire cities and civilizations in a matter of moments. Today the world bristles with over 15000 nuclear weapons, many of them positioned ready to launch with the push of a button. A ‘limited’ nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could trigger a nuclear winter which in turn would wreak havoc on crop cycles and global food supply. Millions around the world would die in the ensuing famine. It is a heavy price to pay for greatness. One might question whether any nation, state, or individual can ever have the right to choose to pay such a price.
The nuclear issue is far bigger than any one country or region. And yet, even as a seven year old, I began to grasp the gravity of what we are dealing with. A nuclear weapon does not differentiate between friend and enemy. Delhi cannot be attacked without compromising Lahore, and Lahore cannot be attacked without compromising Delhi. The unthinkable dangers of radiation do not recognise national boundaries. Greatness is a double-edged sword.
This year on 28 May, let us revisit what makes us truly great. As Pakistanis, we take pride in the colours of our culture, in the warmth of our hearts, in the beauty of our land and language. We take pride in our resilience and strength in the face of terrorism. We carry deep battle scars. This intrinsic greatness existed long before and will continue to exist long after nuclear weapons ever play a role in the equation.
This year on 28 May, let us step forward as global citizens and join hands with young people and influencers all over the world. Let us urge our collective leadership to address the nuclear issue in concrete and conclusive ways. Let us re-calibrate a new future. As both local and global communities, let us redefine what makes us great.
Ms Haneen Khalid is a public policy graduate and South Asia Field Organiser at Global Zero, the international movement for elimination of all nuclear weapons. She believes that an active, informed, and responsible civil society is the key to a prosperous Pakistan and region at large. Nuclear weapons are a global threat and people need to set aside their differences and come together as a global community to tackle it.