Threats to Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme
Posted on April 2nd, 2016

By Afshain Afzal

Prime Minister of Pakistan, who was scheduled to attend Nuclear Security Summit at Washington but he has decided to send his representative instead. The foreign sponsored terrorist attack outside a recreation park on 27 March, killing 72 people, was the basic reason. Western players, in order to pressurize Pakistan to scrap its nuclear programme, aid neighbouring states and non-state actors to carryout terrorism inside Pakistan. Interestingly, the terrorist attack came at the time, when scheduled summit aims at improvement in nuclear security culture among the member states and sharing best practices to enhance security of nuclear materials. Pakistan is doing her level best to take all possible proactive steps against potential nuclear threats from enemies and adversaries as well as accidental incidents.

Although, Pakistan’s nuclear programme is regulated under the IAEA safeguards and mechanisms to raise the standards for nuclear security. However, intentionally doubts are being created within international community that there are dangers to Pakistani nuclear arsenal. Recently, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, Director of Defense Intelligence Agency, during a Congressional testimony on Worldwide Threats said, “Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile continues to grow. We are concerned that this growth, as well as the evolving doctrine associated with tactical nuclear weapons, increases the risk of an incident or accident.”  He said, “Islamabad continues to take steps to improve its nuclear security, and is aware of the threat presented by extremists to its programme.” He added, Pakistan will face internal security threats from militant, sectarian and separatist groups this year and that ISIS in Khorasan and Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent will also remain significant security concerns for Islamabad”.

The fact cannot be denied that ever since Pakistan carried out successful nuclear explosions and got herself included in the list of declared nuclear powers, there is a constant threat to its nuclear installation from external forces. It is a wrong perception that Pakistan’s nuclear installations are threatened by internal terrorism and there is no external threat. Pakistan was well aware of Indian and Israeli nuclear designs against her coexistence since very inception and was keenly monitoring the situation. After the Indian nuclear explosions, Pakistan had no option but carryout nuclear tests, in order to maintain nuclear parity with India for her survival.

It is encouraging that Pakistan and India signed a bilateral agreement, which provides for refraining from undertaking, encouraging, or participating in, directly or indirectly, any action aimed at causing destruction or damage to any nuclear installation or facility in each other’s’ country. Starting in January 1992, India and Pakistan have exchanged lists of their respective civilian nuclear-related facilities. This year too, Pakistan and India exchanged list of its nuclear installations in January 2016.  Interestingly, much before the Indian nuclear tests in 1998, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Gohar Ayub Khan, at the Conference on Disarmament at Geneva on 19 March 1998, offered India an agreement for an equal and mutual restraint in conventional, missile and nuclear fields. However, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes issued a statement on 4 May 1998 that India has decided not to sign the CTBT or NPT and would not only keep the nuclear option open, but also planning to exercise options to make nuclear weapons.

The fact cannot be denied that Pakistan never had a chemical weapons programme. In 1992, India and Pakistan issued Joint Declaration that neither side possessed chemical weapons and in the same regard also signed an agreement. Pakistan ratified the CWC with the same confidence but later it was confirmed that India bluffed and possess active chemical weapons programme and stockpiles.  India’s recent draft nuclear doctrine involves a deterrent capability based on unacceptable damage to an opponent has again put the Pakistan’s nuclear and non-nuclear installations on the list of possible attacks.

It is on record that in 1981, Israel attacked the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirik and claimed to have acted in self-defence because it said that Iraq directed its nuclear weapons toward Israel. After successfully destroying Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, Israelis planned a similar attack on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities at Kahuta in collusion with India in the 1980s. US agencies informed Pakistan regarding the Israeli full-scale operation with the collaboration of India to attack Pakistan’s nuclear facility at Kahuta.  Israel’s per-emptive strike against one of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities could not be materialized due to US pressure on Israel.

Pakistan, as a declared nuclear power, is well aware of her obligation to comply with international rules for non-proliferation of nuclear technology. Under the democratically elected government, the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority is there to have an autonomous oversight mechanism to ensure the safety and security of nuclear installations. Pakistan nuclear programme is aimed for peaceful purposes to fulfill present and future needs. However, because of baseless allegations, Islamabad is being deprived of civil nuclear deal or membership to NSG. Rather, she is pressurized not to develop its nuclear programmes. No doubt, there is a threat to Pakistan’s nuclear programme from some Western countries as well as India and Israel but Pakistan’s Armed Forces and nuclear regime are well trained to defend their highly protected nuclear assets.



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