Ever since I was a kid, I longed for Pakistan to be a super power. Among my fantasies was one in which I (as prime minister) would broadcast on radio (we didn't have TV in those days) the news that Pakistan was now a nuclear power. Of course at that time I didn't know the destructive potential of an atom bomb. Like most Pakistanis today, I merely thought it was a very big conventional bomb that would destroy large cities in a very short time.

When India suddenly announced that it had exploded nuclear devices, there was immense pressure on Nawaz Sharif to do it as well. There were those (like my late uncle Ahmed Parekh) who doubted that Pakistan had an atom bomb. Bill Clinton offered huge economic aid to Pakistan to refrain from going nuclear. 

In hindsight, I believe the Indians also thought Pakistan didn't have the capacity to explode a device. Either that, or they really wanted Pakistan to go nuclear and face sanctions that would cripple its economy and consequently go through another dismemberment.

In fact, after Pakistan did its explosions, Indian experts confidently predicted that it would collapse due to sanctions, as it was already a failed state. This did not happen due to many other factors. Pakistan did try to wrest Kargil from Indian control, confidently believing that India would not risk a nuclear war. But when it was evident that a full scale conflict would break out, poor Nawaz Sharif had to go begging to Clinton for a face-saving withdrawal. I often wonder if the two countries would have nuked each other at the time. 

The one thing in Pakistan's favor is that it has behaved as a responsible nuclear power, despite its scientists being blamed for trying to aid other countries in developing the bomb. I doubt if Libya could ever have succeeded in going nuclear, it simply didn't have the number of scientists to do so (even if it did get blueprints for designing the bomb from Pakistan).

It is of course undeniable that Pakistan has survived due to its nuclear deterrence. It's only the fear that Pakistan would retaliate with a full-scale nuclear attack that has dissuaded India from attacking us.