When Time Stood Still

It was purely by chance that I dropped by to attend a lecture being given by Dr Samar Mubarakmand, the nuclear scientist. I had some time on my hand before my next engagement and I thought it would not be a bad idea to sit down and listen to him and in the post lecture session meet up with some friends sitting in the audience.

So I took my seat and listened in. Dr Mubarakmand was trying to make a point about the courage of one’s conviction and how all elements of nature conspire to help you succeed, if you’re are determined to make it happen. He was illustrating his argument with an example. It was the fateful day of May 27, 1998, a day before Pakistan exploded the nuclear device in response to the Indian nuclear explosions about a fortnight earlier (11 and 13 May). Preparation was in full swing and the tunnel in the Ras Koh Hills was being rigged for the explosions. Dr Mubarakmand had just come out from the subterranean shaft into the mud hut for a breather. The temperature was a searing 52 degree celcius, when the driver of his Toyota Hiace told him that the vehicle needed some urgent repairs. The nearest workshop was at a distance of four hour’s drive at the border town of Dalbandin. The place had to be evacuated the next morning for the explosions, so the driver was told to rush and get the repairs done before the scientists and technicians closed shop and moved out of the ground zero. Dr Mubarakmand then went back into the tunnel to supervise the preparations. He says he walked up and down the 1.3 km length of the tunnel to make sure that everything was in order and after about two and half hours he came up again for a break and a cup of tea at 2pm and found the hiace standing outside. Fearing that his driver hadn’t left and that he would be late for the evacuation, he called him out. The driver ambled out from his rest station and told him that the repairs had been done. Not possible, thought the scientist. A roundtrip counting for the time spent on repairs should have taken at least nine hours. The time that had elapsed after his last conversation with driver was only two and a half hours. How could it be possible? To convince him the driver showed him the receipt of the repairs from the roadside workshop. The mechanic wasn’t at the shop and the driver had to go to his home to get him to do the repairs. This meant some additional time to the entire job. How did it happen in two hours? In Dr Mubarakmand opinion this and other incidents that happened in Pakistan’s quest for nuclear convinced him that time actually stood still to help all those involved in making sure that the nation remained safe.

The next day after having evacuated the test site, Dr Mubarkmand and a small team of men waited for explosions from an observation post at safe distance away from the GZ. If I heard him correctly he said they were 20 kms away. The button had been pressed. The time was 15:15 hours Pakistan Standard Time. The date was 28 May 1998. Ordinarily it would take 35 seconds for the computer to translate the orders and send the command for the detonation. The stipulated time had passed and everything stood still. Would it happen or would it not? The men waited with bated breath. Five long seconds later the earth shook. The team members of Chaghi I were thrown off balance, as seismographs from Sydney to New York registered the signature shocks of five simultaneous nuclear explosions. The strategic balance in the subcontinent had been restored. The tension and apprehensions off the past days evaporated. The team of tired and hungry men uncorked the bottles of tepid water and shared a packet of peak freens zeera biscuits to celebrate the moment. They had succeeded against all odds as time and tide had waited for them to make it happen. Providence was on the side of the steadfast. Their perseverance and faith had paid off.