Pakistan is besieged after the OBL episode. A systematic propaganda has been launched to discredit Pakistan army, air force, and navy after the OBL and PNS Mehran incident. Soon after the PNS Mehran attack a surge in propaganda has been observed that Pakistan cannot defend its nukes against such coordinated attacks and the possibility of insider threat is also being debated in the foreign media.
There have been coordinated statements on the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons after the PNS Mehran attack. For instance NATO chief commented after the PNS Mehran incident that “I feel confident that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is safe and well protected,”…..“But of course it is a matter of concern………. In another statement,”the Indian officials said that “We are concerned with the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear installations………….The real risk is internal – who guards the guardians”. According to Wikileaks; France and UK has also expressed their concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
According to Wikileaks cable, Diplomatic Advisor to President Sarkozy Jean-David Levitte, in a meeting with the then Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan and US Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin, had said that the French government is “not sure that the Pakistani nuclear deterrent is secure,” In another cable of 2009, the UK had also raised concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
After reviewing all these statements by the US, UK, France, and India, it seems that an organized party line has been adopted by all these states, to label Pakistan as an irresponsible nuclear weapon state, which cannot even defend its military installations and bases against militant attacks.
Therefore Pakistan’s nukes are main target; these powers want to build consensus at global level to cap Pakistan’s nuclear programme, because Pakistan is the only Muslim nuclear power which is considered to be a threat to their long term interests in the region.
Another important threat to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons is 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.
The CTR Program was started in 1991 by the Nunn-Lugar after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. Lugar is the same person who introduced Kerry-Lugar bill for Pakistan. On 6th May 2009 Senator Richard Lugar said that CTR programme should also be extended to Pakistan. CTR was aimed to help states of former Soviet Union in controlling and protecting their nuclear weapons, weapons-usable materials, and delivery systems.
Main objectives under CTR were strategic offensive arms elimination; nuclear warhead dismantlement; nuclear weapons storage security; chemical weapons destruction; biological weapons proliferation prevention; reactor core conversions; nuclear material protection, control and accounting; export control initiatives; defense conversion; and others. CTR mainly worked on Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. Nuclear weapons in these countries were dismantled by the US under CTR programme.
If such programme is extended to Pakistan then it will be a serious threat to Pakistan’s nuclear weapon programme. Under CTR it would be imperative for Pakistan to provide information of its civilian and military nuclear facilities and give access to CTR teams to its nuclear installations.
Pakistan does not require such assistance; it has the capability to defend its nuclear arsenal and facilities. The CTR programme was extended to Soviet Union because at that time due to financial subversion, political instability and disintegration, it was unable to control its vast nuclear facilities, material and weapons.
Pakistan is also facing the same situation. There is political instability, economic fragility and internal volatility. But Pakistan government and military still exercise control over its strategic assets and it has the will and capability to defend its strategic weapons from any internal or external threats. Therefore Pakistan does not have that much facilities or warheads as the Soviet Union had at that time. Pakistan possesses only few nuclear facilities and warheads and for the safety and security of those warheads and facilities an effective mechanism is already in place.
Pakistan is not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but despite that it has always adhered to the IAEA safeguards standards for its nuclear installations. Besides these safeguards, Pakistan has also signed many multilateral agreements with the IAEA, which shows Pakistan’s firm commitment towards non-proliferation.
Pakistan has been responsible member of IAEA. On September 25, 2004, Pakistan adopted a legislation —Export Control on Goods, Technologies, Materials and Equipment Related to Nuclear and Biological Weapons and Their Delivery Systems Act, 2004. This Act has a stringent mechanism to criminalise and prosecute the individuals and the non-state actors involved in the illicit transfer of technologies.
In 2007, Pakistan established the Strategic Export Control Division (SECDIV), for 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.
Pakistan is also party to the Container Security Initiative (CSI), after 9/11, the US felt the need for the CSI. Its major purpose was to prescreen the US-bound cargoes. It would help contain terrorists from launching any major nuclear or other terrorist attack on any country, specifically the US. 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. Therefore, its main purpose is to safeguard the international maritime trade from the threat of terrorism.
Pakistan is also a signatory to the Global Initiative for Threat Reduction. It became member of this group in July 2006. It has put in place effective export control mechanism and regulatory body to check and prevent any act of terrorism, which may involve nuclear sites or materials.
Pakistan has taken all necessary measures to safeguard its nuclear arsenal. Pakistani nuclear weapons are under safe, secure and reliable command. Pakistan established the NCA in 2000 to regularise the check and balance on nuclear weapons. Its main objective is to formulate a policy and exercise the control on the employment and development of the nuclear weapons and other strategic organisations. After the induction of this body, the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is under its tight control. There is no threat of theft or unauthorised use of Pakistani nukes because the NCA has strong force to safeguard the nuclear arsenal.
Pakistan announced two committees to deal with nuclear issues. One is the Employment Control Committee and second is Development Control Committee. In these two committees top civilian and military leadership, along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC), Strategic Plans Division’s (SPD) Director-General, heads of concerning strategic organisations and scientists are included.
Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is completely in safe hands and the highest level of security has been accorded to it. Under the SPD, a Security Division has been established with more than 10,000 trained people for its safety and security. It has also installed a Personal Reliability Programme, which is an important asset for the physical protection of the nuclear weapons. Such a system would reduce the possibility of insider threat. There are reports that the US has also helped Pakistan in the development of Permissive Action Link system, which requires codes to use nuclear weapons. All these measures show that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are in safe and secure custody and there is no threat of their theft or unauthorised use.
In addition to that The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) was established, in compliance with the best practices around the world, for the safety and security of sensitive nuclear material. It mainly covers the safety of civilian nuclear facilities and protection against radiation risks, especially in nuclear power plants. Moreover, it also deals with the licensing, registration and disposal of radioactive material. Pakistan’s efforts for non-proliferation are evident and it is seriously opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Pakistan is committed to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation of WMDs and has taken comprehensive legislative, administrative and security measures to strengthen its export control system to ensure the safety and security of the sensitive materials, facilities and technologies. Pakistan needs support of the international community to overcome militancy and terrorism which is a common threat for all, only then we can ensure long term viable peace at regional and global level.