- Programmes and Policies
- Science Policy
During her 1990 trip to Britain, Bhutto paid a visit to Dr. Abdus Salam, a Nobel laureate in physics and a science advisor to her father’s government. During both her terms as Prime Minister, Bhutto followed the science and technology policy her father laid out in 1972, and promoted military funding of science and technology as part of that policy. However, in 1988, Bhutto was denied access to the classified national research institutes run by the military, which remained however under the control of the civilian president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the Chief of Army Staff. Bhutto was kept unaware about the progress of the nuclear complexes, even when the country passed the milestone in 1986 of fissile core manufacturing capability. U.S. Ambassador Robert Oakley was the first diplomat notified about the complexes, in 1988. Shortly afterwards Bhutto summoned chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Munir Ahmad Khan to her office; Khan brought Abdul Qadeer Khan with him and introduced him to the Prime Minister.
At that meeting Bhutto learned the status of this program which had matured since its beginnings in 1978, and on request of A. Q. Khan, visited Khan Research Laboratories for the first time in 1989, much to the anger of Ishaq Khan. Bhutto also responded to Khan when she moved the Ministry of Science and Technology’s office to the Prime Minister Secretariat with Munir Ahmad Khan directly reporting to her. Bhutto had successfully eliminated any possibility of Khan’s involvement and prevented him from having any influence in science-research programmes, a policy which also benefited her successor Nawaz Sharif. During both her prime-ministerial terms Bhutto funded many projects entirely devoted to the country’s national defence and security. The dismissal of Lieutenant-General Gul by Benazir Bhutto had played a significant role on Chief of Army Staff General Mirza Aslam Beg, who did not interfere in matters pertaining to science and technology, and remained supportive towards Benazir Bhutto’s hard-line actions against the President.
In 1990 Benazir declined to allot funds to any military-science projects that would be placed under Lieutenant-General Zahid Ali Akbar, despite Akbar’s being known to have been close to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In 1990 she forced Akbar to resign from active duty, and as director-general of Army Technological Research Laboratories (ATRL); she replaced him with Lieutenant-General Talat Masood as E-in-C of ATRL as well as director of all military projects.
In the 1980s, Benazir Bhutto started aerospace projects such as Project Sabre II, Project PAC, Ghauri project under Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan in 1990 and the Shaheen Programme in 1995 under Dr. Samar Mubarakmand.
During her second term, Benazir Bhutto declared 1996 as a year of “information technology” and envisioned her policy of making Pakistan a “global player” in information technology. One of her initiatives was the launching of a package to promote computer literacy through participation from the private sector.
· Nuclear Weapons Programme
In opposition to her conservative opponent Nawaz Sharif, whose policy was to make the nuclear weapons programme benefit the economy, Benazir Bhutto took aggressive steps to modernise and expand the integrated atomic weapons programme begun by her father in 1972, who was one of the key political administrative figures of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent development. During her first term, Benazir Bhutto established the separate but integrated nuclear testing programme in the atomic bomb programme, requiring the authorisation of the Prime minister and the military leadership.
It was during her regime that the Pressler amendment came into effect, an attempt to freeze the programme. During frequent trips to the United States, Bhutto refused to compromise on the nuclear weapons programme, and attacked the Indian nuclear programme on multiple occasions. Benazir Bhutto misled the U.S. when she told them that the programme had been frozen; the programme was progressively modernized and continued under her watch. Under her regime, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) conducted series of improvised designs of nuclear weapons designed by the Theoretical Physics Group (TPG) at PAEC. Benazir Bhutto also carried messages to Munir Ahmad Khan from her father and back in 1979 as her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had instructed his daughter to remain in touch with the Chairman of PAEC. In this context, Bhutto had appointed Munir Ahmad Khan as her Science Adviser, and he kept her informed about the development of the programme. In all, the nuclear weapons and energy program remained a top priority, along with the country’s economy. During her first term, the nuclear program was under attack and under pressure from the Western world, particularly the United States. Despite economic aid offered by the European Union and the United States in return for halting or freezing the program, Benazir continued the program in both her first and second terms.
During her first term, Bhutto approved and launched the Shaheen programme and advocated for the programme. Bhutto also allotted funds for the programme. On 6 January 1996, Bhutto publicly announced that if India conducted a nuclear test, Pakistan could be forced to “follow suit”. Bhutto later said that the day will never arise when we have to use our knowledge to make and detonate a [nuclear] device and export our technology.
The People of (Pakistan) … are “security conscious” because of the (1971) severe trauma, and the three wars with (India). Our (Pakistan) nuclear development was peaceful … but was “an effective deterrence to India” … because (New Delhi) had detonated a nuclear device. She (Pakistan) …, thus, had to take every step to ensure its territorial integrity and sovereignty…
— Benazir Bhutto, on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
· Space Programme
Benazir Bhutto continued her policy to modernise and expand the space programme and as part of that policy, she launched and supervised the clandestine project integrated research programme (IRP), a missile programme which remained under Benazir Bhutto’s watch and successfully ended in 1996. Benazir established the National Development Complex and the University Observatory at Karachi University and expanded facilities for space research. Pakistan’s first military satellite, Badr-I, was also launched under her government through China, while the second military satellite Badr-II was completed during her second term. With launching of Badr-I, Pakistan became the first Muslim country to launch and place a satellite in Earth’s orbit.