Pakistan As A Responsible Nuclear-Weapons State – OpEd


9/11 introduced a new dimensions to the patterns of violent conflict, with full force, massive casualties in single act of terrorism, guerrilla warfare and increasing non- \state actors. With the increase in the lethality in acts of terrorism, the likelihood of catastrophic nuclear terrorism has become a nightmare for the global community.

New trends sugest that enhanced network centric apocalyptic and religious terrorists with their socio-political agendas may cause alarm for threats of nuclear terrorism in the near future. The significant demand of nuclear weapon by violent terrorists, coupled with the existence of a black market, as well as insider rough elements has caused concern among the current nuclear states.

In this alarming epoch it is being claimed that immature nuclear states might not be doing a good job to protect their nuclear arsenals. The global concerns that terrorists may get their hands on nuclear weapons of Pakistan have raised the critical situation for the security agencies and policymakers. Despite persistent speculation among analysts and policy pundits, there is a little public evidence to suggest that the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear installations, or the command and control of its strategic forces, are in jeopardy.

Upon this background, this article aims to assess Pakistan as a responsible nuclear state and to address those public concerns about the security of Pakistan’s fissile material installations and safe custody of its strategic weapons.

Pakistan: A Responsible Nuclear-Weapons State

The following discussion will reveal Pakistan as a responsible nuclear state and her efforts to meet the global challenge of nuclear terrorism.

a) Compliance with IAEA Safeguards

Pakistan has always complied with the IAEA safeguards for its civilian nuclear power plants, despite the fact that it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Pakistan’s efforts for non-proliferation are quite vivid throughout the time. The following table shows Pakistan’s record of compliance with the IAEA safeguards.1

Table of Pakistan’s Safeguards Agreements with IAEA

Reg. No. Title In Force Status
687 Application of safeguards 1969-10-17 Signature: 1969-10-17
1208  Application of safeguards 1976-03-18 Signature: 1976-03-18
1241 Application of safeguards 1977-03-02 Signature: 1977-03-02



Agreement between the IAEA and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for application of safeguards in connection with the supply of a Miniature Neutron Source Reactor from the People’s Republic of China. 1991-09-10 Signature: 1991-09-10
1639 Agreement between the IAEA and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for the application of Safeguards in connection with the Supply of a Nuclear Power Station from the People’s Republic of China. 1993-02-24 Signature: 1993-02-24.

Along with these safeguards, Pakistan has also signed a variety of multilateral agreements with the IAEA, which manifests that Pakistan is committed to non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The French government should take all these efforts into consideration and should help Pakistan sign a nuclear deal for use of nuclear energy designed for peaceful purposes. It will enhance and strengthen Pakistan’s ability to overcome its energy crisis.

b) Adherence to 1540 and Adoption of Export Control Act 2004

From September 25, 2004, Pakistan adopted legislation, Export Control on Goods, Technologies, Materials and Equipment Related to Nuclear and Biological Weapons and Their Delivery Systems Act, 2004. This Export Control Act was “to provide for export control on goods, technologies, material and equipment related to nuclear and biological weapons and their delivery systems.”1 This Act has a rigorous mechanism to criminalise and prosecute the individuals and the non-state actors involved in the illicit transport of technologies.

In addition, Pakistan issued fresh lists of technologies and materials in October 2005 related to the nuclear and biological weapons that will be subjected to an intrusive export control system.2 A comprehensive National Control List (NCL) of various controlled items, based on the European Union (EU) system of classification/model, Australia Group, NSG and the MTCR lists, was issued after a long (over four-year) process.3 The NCL can be reviewed and revised at regular intervals or updated and notified accordingly.

Pakistan established the Strategic Export Control Division (SECDIV) in 2007, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which would also have an Oversight Board that would independently supervise the implementation of the Export Control Act 2004 and the other laws/legislations relating to the illicit trafficking and export control mechanisms.4 Furthermore, Pakistan is constantly endeavouring to enhance her existing export control regulations and the related regulations.

Similarly, Pakistan has already promulgated the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Ordinance 2000 to brace controls on the export, re-export, trans-shipment and transit of goods and technologies, materials and equipment related to the nuclear and biological weapons and their delivery systems.5

c) Pakistan and Container Security Initiative (CSI)

After 9/11, the Unites States stipulated the need of the Container Security Initiative (CSI) in the world. Its major objective was to pre-screen the US-bound cargoes. It would help contain terrorists from launching any major nuclear or other terrorist attack on any country, specifically the US.6 Pakistan took effective measures to comply with this initiative. Pakistan has installed remote targeting with real-time imaging of a container examination process, while incorporating a live video transmission to monitor the inspection process.7

Moreover, non-intrusive inspection and radiation detective technology would be used to screen any radioactive high-level risk material. Its main purpose is to safeguard the international maritime trade from the threat of terrorism.8 Pakistan’s acceptance of such initiative has improved her image in global community and built trust in the nuclear-weapons community.

d) Pakistan’s Role in Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

Pakistan is party to the Global Initiative for Threat Reduction. It became member of this group in July 2006 at G8 Summit in St. Petersburg.9 As a responsible nuclear-weapons’ state, Pakistan has always participated in non-proliferation efforts. Pakistan has established an effective export control mechanism and regulatory body for check and balances as well as to prevent any act of terrorism, which may involve nuclear sites or materials. Major goal of such initiatives is to work collectively for the non-proliferation, counter-proliferation and counterterrorism disciplines and come up with solid recommendations for the safety and security of the materials.

In this regard, Pakistan has envisaged proficient security system for her sensitive nuclear installations. For the physical protection of the fissile material, Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) has taken efficient steps to respond to any theft, illegal or unauthorised access to the sensitive material. All these efforts show Pakistan’s great commitment towards the global efforts for threat reduction.

4.5. Analysis

From above discussion it can be learned that presence of violent terrorist groups, alleged precedents of proliferation and irresponsibility as a nuclear state, which has made West believe that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons may have a grave threat from Al Qaeda and Talibans. The Western analysts are also of the view that Pakistan has not been that much confident as far as the security measures of their nukes are concerned. According to a former president Clinton administration Energy Department official, even before the crisis, Pakistan had requested some kind of assistance to improve its physical security capabilities.10 So, in that case the US efforts to extend the Cooperative Threat Reduction Programme (CTR) to de-nuclearise Pakistan in the garb of assistance for nuclear safety and security seem even more threatening. The growing Western perceptions on the incompetency of Pakistani authorities have been a source of anxiety for the civil-military leadership as well as public of Pakistan.

The literature manifests that the nuclear command and control existed in Pakistan even prior to overt nuclearization11. Pakistan is in the process of finalizing MPI (Mega Ports Initiative) with the US.12 In this way Pakistan is doing its best to cooperate with the international community to combat terrorism and meet the international standards of safety and security. Pakistan is currently focusing more on securing its nuclear complex than acquiring technology.13 Pakistan is a party to the IAEA’s Illicit Trafficking Database. Since 1993 there have been 827 confirmed incidents of unauthorized transfers of nuclear materials and 224 involved trafficking, but not even single of these incidents took place in Pakistan.14

Pakistan is using all possible means to secure and safeguard its nuclear assets. The incident of B-52 Bomber15 and Los Alamos16 is also an indication that even the security of USA is not fool proof and it needs to improve. Significant security lapses have occurred in many other nuclear programs, thus there is a frequently quoted thumb-rule:

“Security should constantly improve and evolve in a way to be one step ahead of that would be thieves.”17

1. “Pakistan-Multilateral Agreements,” Available at:, Retrieved on: 19 June, 2011.
2. “Export Control on Goods, Technologies, Material and Equipment related to Nuclear and Biological Weapons and their Delivery Systems Act, 2004”. Available at:, Retrieved on: 19 June, 2011.
3. Zulfqar Khan, “Safeguards against Illicit Transfers: Pakistan’s Institutional Response,” Brussels, Belgium, 16-17 November 2006. Available at:…/Brussels%20conference%20on%20illicit%20transfers%20-%20November%202006.pdf, Retrieved on: 22 June, 2011.
4. “Export Control on Goods, Technologies, Material and Equipment related to Nuclear and Biological Weapons and their Delivery Systems Act, 2004” Op. Cit.
5. Zulfqar Khan, “Pakistan’s Non-Proliferation Policy,” The Middle East Institute Viewpoint: The Islamization of Pakistan, 1979-2009, Available at:…/Zulfiqar_pakistans_non-proliferation_policy.pdf, Retrieved on: 22 June, 2011.
6. ulfqar Khan, “Safeguards against Illicit Transfers: Pakistan’s Institutional Response,” Op. Cit.
7. Container Security Initiative” 2006-2011 Strategic Plan, US Customs and Border Protection, Available at:…/cargo_security/csi/csi…plan…/csi_strategic_plan.pdf, Retrieved on: 22 June, 2011.
8. Masood Ur Rehman Khattak, “How Pakistan is a Responsible Nuclear State,” Op. Cit.
9. Ibid
10. “Pakistan joins the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism”. Available at:, Retrieved on: 22 June, 2011.
11. David Albright, “Securing Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal: Principle for Assistance,” Op. Cit.
12. ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Oversight Reforms’: Extracts From Various Chapters of the IISS strategic Dossier, Interaction, Chapter Five: January 2008.
13. Sobia Saeed Paracha, “Strategic Export Controls: Case study of Pakistan,” Op.Cit.
14. Peter Wonacott, ‘Inside Pakistan’s Drive to Guard its A-Bombs’, Wall Street Journal: November 29th 2007. Available on:, Retrieved on: 22 June, 2011.
15. Muhammad Khurshid Khan,’ Nuclear Technology Proliferation: Challenges and International Response’: IPRI Journal, Volume VIII, winter, 2008. Also, ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Oversight Reforms’, Extracts From Various Chapters of the IISS strategic Dossier, chapter five, Interaction: January, 2008.
16. A US B-52 bomber flew around the US while carrying six nuclear-armed cruise missiles, which alerted the “bent spear code”, a code for an incident involving live nuclear weapons. These weapons had the destruction capability of 10 bombs that was detonated on Hiroshima and they were reported to be lost for more than thirty-six hours when the plane took off carrying them along with it. Those airmen who were flying along with these weapons had replaced the official plan for handling the weapons with that of their own and this they did informally.
17. In 2005 a senior safety officer of the US government’s Los Alamos nuclear laboratory revealed that 5000 pounds of plutonium was being stored along with other nuclear wastes under a tent outside the laboratory, open for theft or sabotage.
18. David Albright, “Securing Pakistan’s Nuclear Complex,” Op. Cit.

Muhammad Jawad Hashmi

Mr. MJ Hashmi is M.Phil in Defence and Strategic Studies. He is an Author of a book entitled as “Nuclear Terrorism in Pakistan: Myth of Reality?” His Area of interest is Nuclear Terrorism, Nuclear Safety and Security issues in Pakistan, Arms Control and Disarmament, Nuclear Non-Proliferation. He can be reached at [email protected]

One thought on “Pakistan As A Responsible Nuclear-Weapons State – OpEd

  • February 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Pakistan acquired nuclear technology by hook or by crook to counter INDIAN nuclear weapon threat. PAKISTAN proliferation record has not been good but extreme measures have been taken to secure the nuclear sites-material.
    PAKISTAN had been reassuring INT-COMMUNITY for the safety of nukes but it look like the WESTERN-INDIAN media is exagerating the terrorist threat to PAKISTANI nukes for their own motives.
    PAKISTAN wants nuclear cooperation with senior nuclear powers but they purposely descrimited PAKISTAN nuclear program & ignored its nuclear energy needs.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *