Are Pakistani Nukes In Safe Hands?

Published on, by Rahil Yasin, 02 July, 2008.

LAHORE: Political uncertainty, deals with militants, judges movement, army’s falling morale, and AQ Khan’s so-called network about the alleged selling of nukes technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea raises new concerns among the world leaders about the possible theft of Pakistan’s nuclear assets by religious extremists which might be resulted in real threat to the United States and the West. However, Pakistani officials have assured time and again over the safety of its nuclear weapons. Sharing his views with the US Senate, Stephen P Cohen, Senior Fellow at Foreign Policy, told that Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities present at least four challenges to American policy:

  • 1) There is a small but real possibility of the next India-Pakistan crisis escalating to nuclear levels.
  • 2) Pakistan may decide, as a matter of state policy, to extend a nuclear umbrella (or engage in nuclear sharing) with one or more Middle East states, especially if Iran acquires a nuclear device.
  • 3) There is a hard-to-quantify risk of nuclear theft. Pakistan has a home-grown personnel reliability programme, but even this could be circumvented in a determined conspiracy.
  • 4). There is some small chance that should Pakistan unravel, that its nuclear assets will be seized by remnant elements of the army for political, strategic, or personal purposes.

In reality, these apprehensions are based on mistaken beliefs …

… Pakistan’s command and control over its nuclear weapons is also compartmentalised and includes strict operational security. Pakistan’s command and control system is based on “C4I2SR” (command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, information, surveillance and reconnaissance). The system has three components — the National Command Authority (NCA), the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), and the Strategic Forces Commands.

The NCA was established by administrative order, but now has a legal basis. The Ordinance also addresses the problem of the proliferation of nuclear expertise and personnel reliability. It outlines punishable offences related to breach of confidentiality or leakage of “secured information,” gives the SPD authority to investigate suspicious conduct, states that punishment can be up to 25 years imprisonment, and applies to both serving and retired personnel, including military personnel, notwithstanding any other laws.

As a result, the Ordinance strengthens Pakistani authorities’ control over strategic organisations and their personnel. It has become impossible for evil elements to steal, sell or transfer the nuclear weapons technology because of strict laws and stringent command and control system. (full text).

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