Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pakistani nukes and slanderous reports

By Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat

Yet another fabricated report about the Pakistani nukes appeared in the international media, which was again a crude attempt to malign Pakistan and question the safety and integrity of Pak nukes.

The Atlantic magazine and the National Journal, in the December 2011 issues, labeled Pakistan as ‘The ally from hell’ and attacked the Pakistani nuclear programme. Strangely, the authors of the article, Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder, who claimed to have researched the piece for six months, were totally unknown to the Pakistani Strategic Plans Division (SPD) and the Nuclear Command Authority.

In other words, they had neither approached the concerned Pakistani authorities for producing the piece nor visited the country.

According to the report, “Pakistan has begun moving its nuclear weapons in low-security vans on congested roads, to hide them from US spy agencies, making the weapons more vulnerable to theft by the militants.

After the US raid that killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in May at his Pakistani compound reinforced Islamabad’s longstanding fears that Washington could try to dismantle the country’s nuclear arsenal.

“As a result, the head of the Strategic Plans Divisions (SPD), which is charged with safeguarding the atomic weapons, was ordered to take action to keep the location of nuclear weapons and components hidden from the United States.

“But instead of transporting the nuclear parts in armored, well-defended convoys, the atomic bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads...”

Not long ago, Charles Blair of FAS Terrorism Analysis Project had claimed that Pakistan’s growing nuclear weapons arsenal was at a greater risk due to the emergence of powerful militant groups in country’s security services (of course, the groups were never identified because they did not exist).

However, he was contradicted by George Perkovich of Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, who admitted that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are the safest, most secure things in Pakistan.

After the publication of this report, a North Korean official produced a letter claiming that Pakistan had supported North Korea in its nuclear programme for money. The letter was a fake. As quickly as it was raised, the issue died down.

The writers of such reports have failed to factor in the reality that criticality of nuclear weapons for country’s defence and international sensitivities are known to the Pakistani security establishment, government and policy makers.

Also, Pakistan has taken several measures—most advanced, highly sophisticated and foolproof in all respects —to safeguard the nuclear components which are dispersed throughout the country and whose location is unknown except to the concerned people. The country has spent a considerable amount on this account.

During Gen Musharraf’s rule, Americans had made several offers to provide security systems for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons but the Strategic Plans Division restricted the US role to training only. According to reports, Pakistan exercised its right to pick and choose from the checklist offered by the US. Indeed, it is foolish to believe that non-state actors or militants can take over the country’s fissile material.

Finally, a cautionary note. Any country that makes an attempt which endangers Pak nuclear assets would bring about an unprecedented and strong reaction from the country’s armed forces and public. Certainly, a critical point to remember for those who might be considering taking short-sighted, narrow-minded, highly dangerous steps.