On 28th May 1998, Pakistan tested its nuclear devices in the mountains of Ras Koh in Chaghi district. Pakistan conducted 5 simultaneous nuclear tests under the code name of Chaghi-I. Every year on the same day Pakistani government observes Yom-i-Takbir (Day of Greatness), whereas, the people in Balochistan who had to bear the brunt of nuclear tests observe it as Yom-i-AasRokh (Black Day).
A lot has been written on the background of Pakistan’s nuclear program but one question has always been left unanswered, why was Balochistan chosen as the test site?
Looking at the nuclear test sites around the world one finds a number of similarities between Chaghi and other nuclear test sites. America tested its most powerful nuclear weapon in the Marshal Islands in 1954. The Islands had to suffer acute radiation syndrome. These areas were conquered by America after World War 2 and people of the Islands were not Americans, which made it easier to test the weapons in that region.
However, the victims of American nuclear tests have sued for compensation and recognition of their exposure to nuclear fallout. By June 2009, over $1.4 billion has been given in compensations.
Similarly, the UK tested its nuclear weapons far away from its own people in Australia, which was still under some kind of British rule until it gained complete independence in 1986. British nuclear tests did the same what nuclear weapons do. It destroyed the land of Aboriginals in Australia, which later took 108 million dollars to clean up the area with another 13.5 million dollars given to the traditional owners of the land in compensation. It was in 2014 when their land was fully restored and declared safe—after more than half-century!
Russia tested most of its nuclear devices in the land of Kazakh people in Northern Kazakhstan. A total of 456 nuclear tests were conducted at the site, which is falsely claimed to be uninhabited and the nuclear exposure affected hundreds of thousands of Kazakh citizens. The site continues to be the most highly irradiated places on the planet.
Lop Nur, the test site of Chinese nuclear weapons is situated in Xinjiang’s autonomous region. Following the same colonial mentality that all nuclear power countries carry, China too tested its nuclear weapons in the region where the most downtrodden, economically backward, and suppressed people live. Xinjiang is the region where the majority population is comprised of Uyghur Muslims and this fact alone answers many questions that why this region was chosen for nuclear tests.
In the same way, France tested its nuclear weapons in its former colony of Algeria and in Sahara. The tests also exposed radiation to a human population which were, of course, not French. The victims are still fighting their case for compensation. One Algerian group estimated there were 27,000 still living victims of ill effects from the 1960–66 testings.
All these sites tell us one story, nuclear powers that were Colonial powers chose the colonized people to suffer and the countries, which had no colonies, chose the already suppressed people of the region who had no voice to be heard by the world.
Balochistan was ‘forcibly annexed’ by Pakistan in 1948 and the Baloch people blame Pakistan treats the region as a colony and choosing Balochistan for its nuclear tests gives legitimacy to the concern of Baloch people.