| A Ghauri missile at a military parade in Islamabad
Islamabad, Dec. 7: When Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cavalcade speeds through the streets of Islamabad in January, the hulking Ghauri will not confront the Prime Minister and remind him of the tit-for-tat nuclear explosions of 1998.
Neither will it stand between him and the skyline of Pakistan’s picturesque capital.
The replicas of the missile — mammoth monuments to the pride of Pakistan erected along main boulevards after the nuclear tests five years ago —will be carted away before next month’s Saarc summit.
One of them was removed last night. It used to tower over a big roundabout on a highway that starts from Parliament House and could have fallen on the route of some of the summit guests.
The official reason for the demolition plan is a “beautification” drive by Islamabad’s municipal wing, the Capital Development Authority.
But some officials said in private that the towering tribute to Pakistan’s missile muscle would not have given an “impressive impression” when the country was expected to come under international focus during the summit.
The Saarc meet would not have drawn more than a cursory glance from the rest of the world but for Vajpayee’s scheduled visit, which has changed the complexion of the summit. The officials said “peace statues” would fill the vacuum of the giant missiles.
If all the replicas are eventually replaced, Vajpayee will achieve what Pakistan’s human rights and anti-nuclear activists could not till now.
Terming the missile models “symbols of a jingoistic mindset”, some groups have been campaigning to get them removed and replaced with symbols of peace.
One of the missile statues is erected at the mouth of a small road that leads into a camp office of the Kahuta Research Laboratories — Pakistan’s nuclear hub and the cradle of the Ghauri. It may also be pulled down because it stands along the highway that connects Islamabad with the airport.
The replicas and a model of the Chagai Hills, where Pakistan had conducted its maiden nuclear test in May 1998, had sprouted as symbols of pride. Not only Islamabad but dozens of cities like Lahore, Karachi and Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, host these missile models. One of the Chagai replicas is located at the Islamabad-Rawalpindi convergence, called Faizabad Point, and is lit up in the evenings.