Nuclear testing in Balochistan:
a local physician's testimony
Interview by Karlos Zurutuza
first published in English March 3, 2010
This is testimony taken at an undisclosed location in Pakistani-controlled Balochistan. Originally meant to be a “question-answer” interview, I've preferred to type it directly in first person following the recorded version.
|A child in Dalbandin, an area affected by the radiation.
photo by Karlos Zurutuza
“People used to go to Raspoh Mountain for a picnic day. It was a beautiful place where wildlife was a spectacle in itself. But in the mid-70´s they sent away the people living in the area and, of course, they restricted the access to everyone else. Then they started drilling galleries and tunnels. They were supposed to be used for the exploitation of copper and gold in the newly opened mines of Saindak. During the dictatorship of General Zia nobody really knew what was going on over there.
But in the late 80's we knew that the works in Raspoh had nothing to do with any sort of mining. We started to suspect that there was something very obscure under all those muddy earthworks. Journalists came from all over but the government argued that it was an arsenal. The explanation seemed to satisfy almost everybody as Raspoh is located on the border with Afghanistan. It was the perfect excuse.
Finally we knew that the area was being reshaped to carry out nuclear tests. The BNP (Baluch National Party) and the rest of the coalitions protested and there was a great reaction at all levels. But General Zia was supported by the West because the Russians were in Afghanistan. No one paid any attention to the denunciations by Baloch and humanitarian organizations.
General Zia died in 1988, a year before the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan. By then, we all knew what was happening on mountain Raspoh and the West finally began to worry about the issue. The Japanese even offered money to Islamabad in return to suspend the tests.
The blasts took place on May 28, 1998, just after India´s own nuclear tests on her territory. But Pakistan was still denying everything so Akhtar Mengal, the then Chief Minister of the Balochistan provincial government, came in person to the place to ask for explanations. The police in the area told him that three people had been killed “by heat stroke." It could be as Chagai region is an area where temperatures are often extreme. But what confirmed the worst suspicions was the death of several camels that day. Could a camel possibly die because of the heat?
It was outrageous. Despite being condemned to the most egregious underdevelopment, Islamabad was “rewarding” us with five nuclear detonations whose effects would survive to generations.
Now we suspect that they are preparing more tests in Gadain region, 25 kilometers from Khuzdar. It is a place where two closely spaced mountains offer a perfect place, reasonably far away from any satellite surveillance. People are being evacuated and access is already fully restricted. We assume that they´re waiting for India to detonate their warheads.
Nobody knows the exact extent of radiation among the inhabitants in the Chagai region. The government has banned access to the area and it is impossible to carry out any study on the local population. In any case, physicians like myself who have treated patients from the region have come across large numbers of cases of skin cancer and eye cancer in particular. The radiation probably reached the underground water reservoirs. People rely on those as we hardly get any rain here. A patient from Dalbandin who had visited Raspoh told me that the black granite had acquired a yellowish color, the same as the water. We need someone to take a water sample and analyze it abroad. No laboratory in Pakistan dares to do so for fear of reprisals. I myself do not dare to give my real name because, quite possibly, the ISI (Pakistani intelligence) would kill me by the time this interview was published.”
This interview was conducted in Summer 2009.
Karlos Zurutuza is a freelance correspondent and writes
in Basque, Spanish and English. His work has been published
in several newspapers and magazines.
“We need someone to take a water sample and analyze it abroad. No laboratory in Pakistan dares to do so for fear of reprisals. I myself do not dare to give my real name because, quite possibly, the ISI (Pakistani intelligence) would kill me by the time this interview was published.”
Other articles related to Balochistan by Karlos Zurutuza:
testing in Balochistan: a local physician´s testimony,
Interview by Karlos Zurutuza, 2009, first published in
English, Apr 3, 2010
Vice Magazine has published several language editions of the article titled 'A meeting with Lashkar-e-Balochistan,' by Karlos Zurutuza: German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, English; For other editions of this story: gara.net (download pdf in Spanish), The Diplomat, and at thebaluch: A meeting with Lashkar-e-Balochistan, by Karlos Zurutuza, Nov 17, 2009
Islamabad should have attacked the Taliban in Pakistan a long time ago (trans. Daisann McLane)
East Baluchistan: The forgotten, endless war (trans. by Daisann McLane)
The 62nd Anniversary of Balochistan's unsuccessful bid for independence (Part I): Pakistan's Baloch: Life on the margins of Punjab, by Karlos Zurutuza, gara.net, August 11, 2009. (English translation by Daisann McLane, Spanish original)
Iran-Pakistan Joint Military Offensive Against East Baluchistan, by Karlos Zurutuza, translated from the Spanish by Elena Arengo (orig. publ. gara.net, Aug 30, 2009
Balochs in Iran, the “enemies of God,” story and photos by Karlos Zurutuza, originally published in Spanish by gara.net
Interview with Ismail Amiri, by Karlos Zurutuza, Nov 4, 2009
Interview with historian Taj Mohammad Breseeg, by Karlos Zurutuza, Nov 2, 2009
Esta operación unirá a la resistencia baluche a ambos lados de la frontera, Interview with Akhtar Mengal, by Karlos Zurutuza, gara.net, Aug 30, 2009 (in Spanish)
Articles in Spanish:
Baluchistán: una guerra olvidada que no cesa; Otra jornada de lucha en Quetta, capital de Baluchistán; Islamabad tenía que haber atacado a los talibán en Pakistán hace mucho tiempo; La alargada sombra de los minaretes dorados de Zahedán, Gara.net, Jun 18-29, 2009
The 62nd Anniversary of Balochistan's unsuccessful bid for independence (Part II): Baluch of Iran: the "enemies of God", by Karlos Zurutuza, gara.net, Aug. 12, 2009;
The 62nd Anniversary of Balochistan's unsuccessful bid for independence (Part III): "The Baluchis have only two choices: death or slavery", by Karlos Zurutuza, gara.net, August 13, 2009