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1998: A new arms race

Pakistan's nuclear capability had been long suspected, but never demonstrated.

The country publicly entered the arms race on 28 May 1998, when scientists exploded five nuclear devices at an underground test site in the Baluchistan region.

The tests were described by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as an "inevitable" response to India's nuclear trials a fortnight earlier.

Many people feared that the Cold War arms race had now been replaced with a far more dangerous stand-off in one of the world's most volatile regions.

Your memories

On 28 May 1998, I was at the site of an under-construction Electrical Substation in Khafji, a small town in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia.

One Pakistani Pathan driver, who was out to bring some construction material returned to site with a red hot face and sparkling eyes. He was near to burst out of his skin. I asked him what extra had happened. With a glittering pride, he broke the news of Pakistan's nuclear explosions, which spread in no time within all Pakistani workers, present on that site.

Their immense joy and cheer could not be well described in words. I too shared the magic moment with them. The common point of that pleasure and pride was that Pakistan retaliated India, in a spright tone and tune.
M. Hafeez-ur-Rahman, Saudi Arabia

Pakistan had no other choice but to test its own atomic weapons because India was threatening Pakistan.

Their leaders were yelling every sort of abuse against Pakistan and as soon as Pakistan had tested its weapons they all of a sudden changed their tones. Shame on them.
Fasih, UK

After the tests conducted by India, the world's reaction to it was weak. Not only that, India's attitude towards Pakistan became ultra hostile and hence when Pakistan conducted the successful tests it was a matter of pride and a sense of victory for the Pakistani people.

The people were proud of its scientists and hoped that tests would be where it ends and both countries work towards disarmament.
Hasan, Pakistan

I was in Hong Kong and I came to know when I was travelling in a ferry from HK to Kowloon. One of the guys working in that company told me what Pakistan had done.

It was mixed emotion - not sad nor happy because I knew Pakistan had no choice but to follow India's lead.
Ijaz, Pakistan

Words fail to describe the pride and euphoria that engulfed the whole country. We sat on the edge of our seats listening to the same news time and again, bemused by the harsh words the West had to offer.

It was time Pakistan threw off the garments of dependence and assert itself as a power to be reckoned with. We had spoken with a loud clear voice and stopped Advani from "teaching Pakistan a lesson", whatever lesson that may have been.
Ali Sheriff, Canada

It was a hot day in Mardan, a small town in northern Pakistan. Everyone in the streets was discussing whether Pakistan should respond with its own tests.

I was of the opinion that it shouldn't and that we should let sanctions hit India while at the same time extract the most out of Clinton's hypocritical administration.

Yet an hour or two later when the news arrived on TV, I remember the joy and pride I was feeling, yet again I thanked God to have blessed me with Pakistan, a country I love so dearly.

India's tactics and the West's hypocrisy were good lessons for Pakistan. The same sanctions were turned into rewards and millions of aid when we started helping in the war against terror.

The name of the game is politics!
Umar Khan, Pakistan

I remember it so vividly. I was stuck to the TV watching the US offering peanuts as usual to Pakistan not to test the nuclear devices and praying that Pakistan would reject the phoney carrots of Clinton.

It was such a proud moment when Pakistan rejected the western pressure with a big bang.

I am proud that Pakistan is a nuclear state.
A R Khan, USA

The usual blistering summer heat in Lahore was accompanied by the heat of an angered nation lashing out against its neighbour.

As Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in Baluchistan the reverberations were felt across the country.

I accompanied a group of friends as we took to the streets of Lahore, gauging the public reaction to this historical event. Euphoria usually witnessed during celebrations of Pakistan's independence day was once again gripping the streets of the Punjabi capital.

Nationalistic songs blared from car stereos, the Pakistani flag was seen billowing behind almost every vehicle, and jingoistic slogans were being heard from every street corner.

Pakistan had entered the nuclear age and for a country with so little to celebrate the day became an orgy of patriotic fervour when everyday worries could be forgotten.

I would remember that day as one where a young country stepped forth to be noticed, like an infant crying for attention, or an adolescent hoping to be taken seriously.
Uzair Amir, Pakistan

" It was time for Pakistan to stand up and be counted and we did "

Saqib, UK

As a British Pakistani I felt proud that my country could face up to Indian threats and withstand international pressure to safe guard its national interests.

Pakistan has played a very important and positive role in the break up of Soviet Union and it has been rewarded with nothing but sanctions. It was time for Pakistan to stand up and be counted and we did.
Saqib, UK

My mum and I were in Japan during May of 1998 to visit my dad who was working out there. Mum and I took a trip to Hiroshima on the day of the first nuclear tests by Pakistan.

We didn't know what had happened as we don't speak much Japanese, but the whole city seemed to come to a standstill and everyone at the Hiroshima Park just sat down.

An American family told us nuclear tests had been carried out and this was a silent protest. I will remember the eerie stillness for a very long time.
Fiona Jameson, UK

My recollection of this day was a feeling of immense pride that Pakistan had achieved nuclear status, albeit at a terrible price. At the same time, there was annoyance that India had initiated this brinkmanship yet had not received the condemnation that Pakistan had.

It was a day to remember, however, and I would rate it at the same level of national pride as Pakistan's cricket World Cup victory six years earlier.
Taz, UK

I was in Islamabad. There was a lot of demand by Pakistani people for the tests in response to Indian tests. I was at home that day and suddenly all TV channels' regular shows were replaced by national patriotic songs. Just the satellite dish channels didn't get affected.

Then we came to know we had conducted the tests. I am proud we did it and as a Pakistani I feel it was right to do it. Next day we had free sweets distributed in the whole university in the happiness of it.
Rubeel Iqbal, USA

" India would have attacked Kashmir had Pakistan not done this "

Jibran Syed, Pakistan

I knew this step was inevitable for Pakistan. India would have attacked Kashmir had Pakistan not done this.

[The world's reaction] clearly indicated the double standards of the international community. India was hardly blamed, but Pakistan was slapped with all kinds of sanctions.
Jibran Syed, Pakistan

I remember it was a very great day, not just for Pakistan, but for all nations who have aggressive neighbours.

These tests were as a result of the West's lack of condemnation at tests carried out by India. Pakistan had to respond with equal measure. I remember Muslims from all over the globe celebrating their determination not to be nuclear blackmailed by India.

If there was any "fury" at all, it came from a hypocritical West who did not want Muslims to progress.
Bjorn Larson, Sweden

The day nuclear tests were performed by Pakistan, the tone of Indian leaders changed from an aggressive war mongers to one of diplomacy.

Even though I am not in favour of Pakistan being a nuclear power this step was inevitable and was forced upon us. I don't think we should ever regret that decision as it was our only choice.
Bilal Ali Siddiqui, Pakistan

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