Can Terrorists Grab Pakistan Nukes: Myths And Realties? – OpEd


On May 22 night just about one dozen terrorists did attack on Mehran Naval Base Karachi, completely destroyed two modern and sophisticated naval air plane (P 3c Orion Planes), also damaged to other plans and helicopter, and killed approximately one dozen security personnel. Prior to this, terrorists have done very deadly attacks on the sensitive facilities inside Pakistan such lethal attack on GHQ of Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi in which many officers injured and killed, attack on Naval College in Lahore, attack on Manama police station Lahore, attack on Sri Lankan cricket team, attack on Wah Ordinance factory. Apart from this, there are many terrible incidents that terrorists carried out against military and sensitive facilities of Pakistan. These entire incidents were very alarming for Pakistan but attack on Mehran Naval Base incident seems really threat signal toward Pakistan nuclear facilities and raised the vulnerabilities of Pakistan’s security system.

As terrorists did attack on Mehran Naval Base with sophisticated weapons and destroyed strategic weapons (P 3c Orion Planes), seemed they were well trained and took excellent commando training from any one of the best commando organization of the world as well as have strong intelligence system. Now these terrorists have shown their intended that it is possible that they can do attack on nuclear facilities. In this context, there are three types of threat to nuclear facilities which these terrorists carried out i.e. (a) Attack on Nuclear power plants (b) Attack on nuclear wastage material during transportation (c) Attack on those locations where Pakistan’s strategic weapons are located and try to grasp nukes. Security of first two is vulnerable than third one. If we throw glance on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities then we can observe some of nuclear power plants are located near big cities. Pakistan Atomic Research Reactors (PARR) Nilor located only few kilometers away from Islamabad city.

Karachi Nuclear Power Plant is also located near population, Chashma I, II are also vulnerable. This was scenario one and there are chances that terrorists could adopt this scenario to avenge of Osama Bin Laden. During transportation of wastage material, terrorists can try to filch the special truck of wastage material. They can create panic in public as well as hit to government installations.

Now the question is that, can really terrorists clutch nukes? Or are Pak nukes security really vulnerable? In one perspective we can say that terrorists or non stat actors (NSA) cannot access to Pakistan’s nuclear installation. To support this argument, there are five arguments: (1) Pakistan has one of the robust command and control system of the world, which based on multi tier security system. American itself admitted about the credibility of safety and security of Pakistan nuclear command and control system. There are 8000- 10000 security personnel who are guarding round the clock to nukes and its relevant material. (2) Nuclear weapons security is not as the other conventional installation. In order to reconnaissance and surveillance the modern technology is installed in the sensitive areas. So if any threat goes toward these sensitive facilities, security personnel beware before any threat and also have the capability to counter any incoming threat

(3) Pakistan has dispersed the components of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. These weapons are not in ready to go situation. So it is very impossible to terrorists during their operation to collect all components or to explode them and have information about all places of material. They would have no time for searching material because they have to face tremendous fight with highly trained commandos of Pakistan’s forces. (4) Pakistan has made its own Permissive Action Links (PALs) which usually consist on ‘two or three man rule’. Without PALs no one can explode the nukes. In ‘two man rule’ only two to three persons individually know the password of nukes. From these two or three, everyone has to enter code otherwise this lock does not open. So this is big challenge for terrorists or NSA to theft or explodes the weapon. (5) Taliban and Al-Qaida have not yet fully trained persons who can explode to nukes, because in order to explode nukes you must have trained persons because it has particular technique for explosion unlike conventional bomb.

The other perspective is that terrorists or NSA can grab Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. (1) If some personnel including officers in Pakistan forces who are guarding the nuclear facilities can do mutiny that why Pakistan is assisting to USA in ‘War on Terror’, why Pakistan is carrying out operation inside Pakistan? And they want to withdraw to America from region. For this purpose they can filch are use the nuclear bomb against own government and forces as well as on American basis in the region. (2) As we saw in Mehran Navel base Karachi there was big security laps due to negligence of security institutions even it is our strategic delivery systems (P 3c Orion Planes) base, but its security was much disappointed. If the security institutions have taken such measures in nuclear facilities areas, then this negligence can create unacceptable damage for the country as well as entire world. (3) Terrorists or NSA including forces personnel and officers can fail to Command Control Communication computerized Intelligence Information and Surveillance (C4I2S) and can takeover some or more weapons in their own custody. As we have seen that there were many mutiny officers has been arrested from the Pakistan’s forces.
There is no doubt Pakistan has one of the best command and control system, but recently attack on extremely sensitive facility Mehran Naval Base Karachi has raised much concern about security of nuclear facilities. Now Pakistan’s armed forces should have to review its security measures and fill all loopholes (if any exist) in all sensitive installations. It must review to Personnel Reliability Program (PRP). Pakistan should not start North Wazirstan operation, because this measure can provoke to further people for suicide attacks and at this time economically Pakistan is not in condition to sustain war. Pakistan should provide basic necessities, sources of income and justice to people and also remove the corruption from its institutions. Pakistan should also halt the drone attacks, because these things are also provoking to people for retaliation against Pakistan as well as America. If Pakistan takes all these measures then it is confirm that at least no Pakistani will think against its own country. When no Pakistani will think against its own country then Pakistan can counter every threat from outside, meanwhile we have threat from inside the country due to wrong policies of Pakistan’s government rather than outside.

Writer is a Scholor at National Defence University Islamabad, and can be reached at [email protected]

M. Suleman Shahid

M. Suleman Shahid is a Research scholar at the Strategic & Nuclear Studies Department, National Defence University Islamabad, and may be reached at [email protected]

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