LAHORE: Pakistan‘s Railways Minister Shiekh Rashid on Saturday claimed that the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif was against conducting the nuclear tests in 1998 in response to India’s tests.
“Sharif and almost his whole cabinet (in 1998) were against conducting the nuclear tests in response to India’s. Raja Zafarul Haq, Gauhar Ayub and I were in favour of conducting the nuclear tests,” Rashid told reporters.
Rashid was a member of the cabinet of the Sharif government in 1998.
When asked then on whose order the nuclear tests were carried out on May 28, 1998, if not on Sharif’s, Rashid indirectly referred to the military establishment. “These are national secrets and let it be so.”
When asked why he left for abroad when Pakistan conducted the nuclear tests, the minister replied: “I had to proceed abroad on a special duty.”
Rashid is considered to be close to the establishment and the Opposition calls him its spokesperson.
Dismissing Rashid’s claim, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz senior leader Rana Sanaullah said the whole world knows that Sharif had conducted the nuclear tests in 1998 despite international pressure. “This certified turncoat cannot take away the credit of nuclear tests from Nawaz Sharif,” he said.
Sharif’s younger brother and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif also said: “After India conducted nuclear tests (in 1998), Nawaz Sharif asked the army leadership to make preparation to give response to it (India) in the same manner.”
“Nawaz Sharif neither accepted a huge economic package nor bowed to international pressure,” he said, adding that there was no doubt in it that former prime minister and Pakistan People’s Party leader late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto started the nuclear programme.
Sharif was serving prime minister in 1998 for the second time when the nuclear tests were carried out by Pakistan. He was convicted and sentenced to jail on corruption charges in 2018. He is currently in London to receive medical treatment.