By Saqib Mehmood
The issue of nuclear security in Pakistan is being hyphened now days with two main threats by western and local writers- External threats and internal threats. Externally, Pakistan is facing the threat of likely US invasion to abandon its nuclear facilities under a multi or unilateral arrangement. This threat is emerged from the state’s instability due to terrorism and inability of government to improve law and order situation. Farther this threat is exacerbated by the fuel which is being added by the international print and electronic media. The internal threats which are most dangerous and are directly related with the external threats emanates from western concerns regarding the insider-outsider collaboration for planed theft of nuclear material, sabotage, and unauthorized use of nuclear weapon.
Internal threats to nuclear security have direct link with the wrong societal trend which were being induced in the Pakistani society in 1980’s to feed the interests of global powers and some minor domestic gains. Religious extremism and ethos of jihad were induced in the fabric of Pakistani society through a planned strategy to widen the country’s strategic depth and to fuel the insurgency in Indian held Kashmir . Communist expansion was halted and US won the game with the demise of Soviet Union but the objectives set out by Pakistani leadership at that time are still a dream. On the other hand a syndrome of extremism replicated in the society of Pakistan resulted in multiple militant organizations and jihadi groups. Later after 9/11 and U-turn taken by the Pakistan’s leadership on its policy towards these militant organizations provided a vacuum, in which these militant groups found it logical too to take a u-turn- and they fell back on their masters. The Afghan war expanded deep into the territory of Pakistan which resulted into instability due to week writ of government on its territory and lethargic law and order condition. As the law and order situation in Pakistan became worsen with the passage of time after 9/11 the concerns of west and Pakistani nuclear establishment regarding the security of nuclear weapons increased. Pakistan felt the need to establish a robust command and control system to mitigate the emerging threats. As a result National Command Authority (NCA) and Strategic Planning Division (SPD) were created in year 2000. Under the belly of NCA’s policy guidelines the security division (the largest division in SPD) is responsible for the safety and security of nuclear weapons. This division is responsible for making and corrections of plans and contingencies, having very sophisticated system of intelligence and counter intelligence to diminish the likelihood of theft and sabotage. Ten thousand dedicated force led by two stars General is there to guard the bombs and related nuclear facilities. According to the open source knowledge Pakistan has installed its own version of “Permissive Action Links,” a sophisticated coded lock device that US uses to prevent unauthorized launch of its nuclear weapons by any combatant field commander. Standard “Two Man Rule” is there to check and authenticate the access to nuclear weapon release code. So there is hardly any chance of unauthorized use of nukes as the system fulfills the requirements of international standards.
The most dangerous problem related to the security of Pakistan ’s nukes is the insider-outsider collaboration. There are two things that provoke concerns in west. One rogue scientists which were found to be have relationship with Taliban and Al-Qaeda leadership. Second the coming generation of scientists could be inspired by the radical religious views. I think the west is more concerned about the second problem than first because the increasingly religious (according to western writers) generation of would-be scientists and engineers would be detrimental to the security of Pakistani nukes, if they get place in sensitive nuclear facilities.
No doubt that the religious extremism has increased in Pakistani society after 9/11 but till now it does not have influenced the large part of society because of large number of attacks by religious extremists on Pakistani civil society have defamed these groups in bulk of the society. Most of the Pakistanis are moderate in their thinking and they do not like radical religious thoughts. It has been witnessed in the recent military operation in northern areas where military got the full public support. Second with the passage of time a sense have prevailed on almost all religious sects of Pakistani society that these militants are our enemies and they must be wiped out from the territory of Pakistan .
So in my point of view now moderate religious thoughts are prevailing over fundamentalism day by day. As far as the security of Pakistani nuclear weapon is concerned a security culture has been evolved in the nuclear management since September 11 attacks. Pakistan has taken solid and robust steps to enhance the efficiency of security system and has improved its supervisory procedures for military and scientific manpower. First Pakistan introduced the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) and Human Reliability Program (HRP) or the employment of military and civilian personnel. These programs involved a battery of checks to rooting out human eccentricities like lust, greed, depression and tendency towards radical religious behaviors. PRP is designed along the same lines of one in the US . Second a system of security clearance based on annual, semiannual, and quarterly review is in place, and it is based upon the principle of “trust but verify”. Third a system of sensitive material control and accounting under the supervision of SPD has been created which involves regular and surprise inspections to tally material production and waste in order to maintain transparency and accountability. Fourth the inception of Nuclear Security Action Plan (NSAP) by Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) which evolves the identification of radiological sources, detection of orphan radioactive sources, and to secure borders against any illicit trafficking of sensitive material.
Peter Wonacott quoted a General of Pakistan Army in his paper published in 2007 saying that “We don’t mind people being religious, but we don’t want people with extreme thoughts”- in my point view separates the thin line between Rogue and innocent. People do have right to be religious and their religious practices have nothing to do with their duties, but being extremism in religious views and practices is the real point of concern, worth to be emphasized on.
The society which we have now in Pakistan has gone through a thirty year experience of hard lessons and have finally reached at conclusion that neither liberalism nor religious extremis are in their favor. This society has learned its lesson that their benefit lies in between these both extremities.
The writer is a strategic and nuclear analyst previously affiliated with “Strategic and Nuclear Studies” department of NDU Islamabad and may be reached at [email protected]