International media' s efforts to propagate baseless information about Pakistan's nuclear weapon theft are merely pressure tactices to pursue their own interest in the region. More and more countries are seeking this technology so cases of theft and information leakinges are on the rise even in advanced nuclear weapons states. Now the time has come, when international community should think to increase cooperation among nuclear states to make a world more secure place to live on.
By Shamsa Ashfaq.
In the wake of growing militancy, Osama’s death and militant attack on Mehran Naval Base in Karachi, the US and Indian think tanks and media have started voicing concern over the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Especially, the killing of Osama Bin Laden raised unnecessary fears that he had help from ‘friends’ in Pakistan military and spy agencies and that Al-Qaeda sympathizers might also be among those guarding Pakistan’s nukes. Pakistan, however, has always rejected such fears over its nuclear weapons as “misplaced and unfounded” saying it has very robust, multi-layered command and control system. The security measures in Pakistan are being followed since 50s. In 1964, Pakistan Nuclear Safety Committee (PNS) was constituted, in 1970 a Nuclear Safety and Licensing Division was formed. In 2001, Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) was established to ensure safeguards and regularisations of nuclear facilities. In Pakistan so far 13 regulations in connection with nuclear programme were developed that are at par with international standards and to the IAEA safety standards. For over 30 years, Pakistan has enjoyed an excellent operational and safety record of its two nuclear power plants, KANUPP and CHASNUPP, which both operate under IAEA safeguards.Since 2000, the nation’s key nuclear institutions have been under the unified control of the National Command Authority (NCA), a 10-member body, comprising the president; prime minister; chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee; ministers of defence, interior and finance; director-general of the Strategic Plans Division (SDP); and the commanders of the army, air force and navy. Decision-making power regarding nuclear deployment rests with the NCA. Its chairman, who is the President of Pakistan, casts the final vote. The SPD acts as National Command Authority’s secretariat, is in-charge of developing and managing nuclear capability and exercises day-to-day control. The weapons are under strict control of the SPD. The weapons designed to be delivered by missiles, fighter-bombers are stored at secure and secret locations. Pakistan has 10,000 soldiers guarding its nuclear installations and the SPD has its own independent intelligence section. Staff working in nuclear facilities goes through an extensive vetting process, involving political, moral and financial checks and psychological testing for 10,000 staff by security monitors keep close tabs on 2000 scientists working in ultra-sensitive areas. Pakistan’s controls are such that orders to abort a mission involving a nuclear weapon could be given at the last second. Even if a rouge pilot were to fire a missile he would not have the code to arm the warhead, according to SPD. Additional steps have also been taken by Pakistan to augment the safety and security of nuclear installations and to prevent WMD proliferation. So by all means, Pakistan’s nuclear facilities and weapons are safe of any possible tsunami. Pakistan gives highest level of importance to the safety and security of its nuclear installations. It has successfully established a strong safety culture in its nuclear activities and diligently adhering to the principles of the Nuclear Safety Convention, which Pakistan signed at the time of its inception. The safeguard and security that the country ensured for its nuclear programme are significant. Pakistan is confident of it but will remain persistent and never complacent about its nuclear safety, therefore, is always continuing to review its security measures in this connection. Pakistan’s nuclear assets are vital for its strategic deterrence posture so there is no question of their falling into the wrong hands. Nuclear weapons do pose threat to humanity but Pakistan’s motivation to acquire nuclear weapons is its need to survive in the most hostile environment. It is the country’s nuclear weapons programme that saved Pakistan from a Libya or Iraq-style invasion by western forces after 9/11. It is the nuclear weapons that have successfully stopped subcontinent from becoming the ‘most dangerous place in the world’. Quoting the former diplomat Shashi Tharoor, Pankaj Mishra wrote in his article on 3rd June, 2011, that “Indians know that war with Pakistan would be catastrophically counterproductive. Yet, when Indians watch Israel take the fight to the enemy, killing those who launched rockets against it, some of them “cannot resist wishing that they could do something similar in Pakistan”. These Indians prayers remain unanswered because of the nuclear balance between the two states. Rightly, by threatening to make the Pakistan-India war catastrophically costly, nuclear weapons have created strong incentives for caution in New Delhi and Islamabad. These incentives do not rule out any and all regional conflict. However, the danger of nuclear escalation makes major Pakistan-India confrontation far less likely than it was in a purely conventional environment, much as it reduced the risk of US-Soviet conflict during the cold war.Every nation weak or powerful has the right to its defence in today’s nuclearised environment. The cold war ended nearly 20 years ago and there are no disputes between P5 states about borders and territory. The communist crusade is a thing of the past and there will be no wars of civilizations. It is paradoxical that in this situation the military expenses in the world still amount to more than 1,464 billion dollars. Fear of terrorism, though, explains how some of this cannot justify the enormous sums of aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines or preparations for war in space. Arms build up used to be fuelled by political controversy. What we have witnessed in recent years is a drift to an international frost, to a large extent engendered by a military buildup in the US that now stands for 43 per cent of the world’s military expenditures. If the world’s sole super power does not feel safer with what all the sophistication and advancement of technology to safeguard its sovereignty how the developing, poor and vulnerable nations can guarantee their survival? Pakistan went nuclear to ensure its survival against eminent threats emerging from nuclear India and the catastrophic failure of US foreign policy in south Asia. Pakistan is a proud nuclear state, understanding its responsibilities as a nuclear weapon state. It sees its nuclear weapons as a means of insulating the country against the dangers of hostile intentions from across the border. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure, primarily because Pakistan army recognises the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands. Nicholas Platt, a former US ambassador to Pakistan, substantiating the Pakistani stance over safety of its nukes said: “The specter of radical Islamists taking over and brandishing the Islamic bomb is rather far-fetched”. Like Pakistan, all nuclear weapon states are wary of safety and security of their nuclear assets. International media’s efforts to propagate baseless information about Pakistan’s nuclear weapon theft are merely pressure tactics to pursue their own interest in the region. More and more countries are seeking this technology so cases of theft and information leakages are on the rise even in advanced nuclear weapons states. Now the time has come, when international community should think to increase cooperation among nuclear states to make a world more secure place to live on.