Safety And Security Of Pakistan’s Nuclear Assets – OpEd


“Security involves not only the capabilities, desires and fears of individual states, but also the capabilities, desires and fears of other state with which they interact.” — Barry Gordon Buzan

Subsequent to the austere nuclearization of India, Pakistan had no real option except to adjust, as the peace and security in South Asia depends on such. It is likewise an unquestionable certainty that Pakistan’s nuclear faculty, helped by the conventional ability, has been the supporting factor for constraining the crises with India from escalating to undesirable limits.

However the ownership of these nuclear weapons carries with it a paramount national, global and moral responsibility that the nuclear faculty is under strong custodial and operational control with an ultimate motivation intended only to deter. Necessarily, every nuclear state needs to soundly demonstrate and project that it is a ‘responsible nuclear state.’

An important global concern about nuclear weapons and nuclear capabilities in general revolves around the potential threat of nuclear terrorism. The Harvard Kenedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has highlighted four potential type of nuclear and radiological terrorism: a) Theft of intact nuclear weapons, b) Theft of nuclear material to make an improvised nuclear explosive device or radiological dispersal device (RDD), c) Theft of other radioactive material, and, d) sabotage of a nuclear facility or transport mechanisms. The growing concerns over the nuclear security of Pakistan are based on a number of assumptions and to deal with these assumptions one ought to examine the evolution of the nuclear safety and security system in Pakistan; for it’s really not on a halt.

Nonetheless, concerns over the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets by the foreign states have always been responded befittingly by official statements, analysts and think tanks based in Pakistan and they have been quite vocal over the differential treatment by some ‘powerful actors’ vis-à-vis India.

There exists an invariable monitoring of the command and control mechanisms. Pakistan has set up a far reaching institutional structure with the National Command authority (NCA) for formulating the policy, employment and development of the key frameworks including the strategic systems; chaired by Prime Minister, whilst having Strategic Plans Division (SPD) as its secretariat.

However, the aforementioned structure makes it clear that the final authority to use nuclear weapons rests with the civilian chief executive, hence making the command highly centralized subsequently requiring the peripheral commanders to report and request authorization for use. Likewise, the security division of SPD is maintaining a strong watch on all the aspects of the nuclear program, with operational control vested to NCA. Moreover, there exists an academy for imparting dedicated training and skills.

As far as the legislative framework is concerned Pakistan now has replaced NCA ordinance with the NCA act. However the sole purpose of this legislation is to give cover to the NCA for exercising complete command and control over research, development, production and use of nuclear technology. Moreover, Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) , regulates and supervises all matters related to the safety and radiation protection measures.

Pakistan likewise approved the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) in October 2000 and all transportation of its sensitive nuclear materials goes under the rules of this convention. Much the same as USA, Pakistan takes after Personnel Reliability Program (PRP). This program manages faculty screening and leeway, who works in nuclear facilities, strategic organizations and other related establishments.

To the extent physical security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets is concerned, the nuclear establishments are distributed geographically protected by a multilayered system of security. In addition to this the nuclear warheads owned by Pakistan are kept separate from their delivery system which again is the reflection of centralized command authority that favous the never launching aspect of ‘always/never dilemma’ proposed by Peter d. Feaver in 1992. Similarly the Permissive Action links (PALs) ensure that a nuclear weapon can’t be launched unless the necessary codes are provided by state’s central authority. As confirmed publicly by General Khalid Kidwai Pakistan’s nuclear warheads are equipped now with PALs.

However, there still prevails another assumption that any terrorist group/organization may assault to get hold of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals but the verifiable appraisal uncovers unmistakably that not a solitary militant assault or other related episode has been recorded till date. The initiatives taken by Pakistan to demonstrate its atomic security foolproof demonstrates its solid responsibility, ability and capability. Nobody ought to stay under the fantasy that the terrorists could assault Pakistan’s atomic establishments. To assault the GHQ and the Mehran Naval Base situated in congested urban areas like Rawalpindi and Karachi is unique in relation to assaulting Pakistan’s nukes that are dispersed and under multi layered command and control framework.

To conclude, Pakistan nuclear regime is secured by a multi-layered security system to counter any nuclear security threat both from within and outside. The country also has now strong credentials on nuclear security, safety and non-proliferation because of which it qualifies for full integration in the multilateral export regime.

*Ubaid Ahmed currently working as a research affiliate in SVI

2 thoughts on “Safety And Security Of Pakistan’s Nuclear Assets – OpEd

  • August 16, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Pakistan has put in place a command structure that consists of the National Command Authority (NCA), the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) and the Strategic Force Command (SFC). The SPD has repeatedly assured that “nuclear use authority will remain under centralized control under all circumstances.” However, there are two major issues pertaining to Pakistan’s assurances of complete central control over its nuclear arsenal that continue to raise concerns in its neighbourhood.

  • August 17, 2017 at 4:49 am

    Since the very beginning, Pakistan’s nuclear programme has been facing negligible opposition.the Government of Pakistan had constituted and implemented both short and long term policies to develop the country’s nuclear deterrence capability,i t has been intelligently addressing the security challenges to its nuclear infrastructure. Therefore, there has been no recorded incident of sabotage or theft of the Pakistani nuclear material to date.The periodic meetings of the NCA, and briefings organised by the SPD, reveal that a range of overt and covert measures were adopted to guard the country’s nuclear programme. The safety and security arrangements manifest that neither terrorist networks, nor any external power is capable to seize its nuclear weapons. Hence, the physical-protection systems at the Pakistani nuclear facilities are well-built.


Leave a Reply

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