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Safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear installations

By Sidra Ajaib Kayani 

Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is primarily based on the policy of ambiguity. There are different speculations regarding the exact number of its nuclear weapons however the accurate number is yet unknown. By and large it is assessed that Pakistan could have 90 to 120 nuclear warheads. Along with numbers debate numerous steps have been taken to secure weapons and other related asset.

Pakistan does follow strict rules and regulations for the foolproof security of its nuclear weapons and a number of initiatives have been taken in this regard. The weapons are apparently kept separate from their delivery systems just to minimize chances of any catastrophe. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former President affirmed that Pakistan warheads and missiles are not ready to fire with a button in hand. The concerns regarding the accidental launch of nuclear weapon are also addressed by attaching nuclear warheads with a code-lock device ‘Adaptation of Permissive Action Links’ (PALs). By doing this any nuclear lunched decision is not plausible unless of two or three men decision. Such a strictest procedure shows Pakistan maturity and competent of keeping nuclear weapons safe.

Measures have also been taken to secure fissile material under the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) net. Yet, not a single incident has been reported regarding the mishandling or mismanagement of fissile material produced within Pakistan. There is also a tight security of nuclear facilities with highly trained personnel and electronic devices. Like advanced nuclear weapons states Pakistan has also taken strong measures to make its fissile material security perfect.

‘SPD conducts external audits on all nuclear inventories inside the country. SPD also launches regular and surprise inspections to the nuclear facilities to check and confirm its control and accounting of fissile material’. SPD is also accountable of the Physical protection of nuclear facilities. Under the Inner perimeter security and outer perimeter security, protection of facilities has been ensured. Pakistan also ratified the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) in October 2000 and all transportation of its sensitive nuclear materials comes under the guidelines of this convention.

There are four of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities, KANUPP, the Pakistan Atomic Research Reactors I and II at Rawalpindi and Chasma-1 power reactor are working under the safeguards of the IAEA. Other non-attached facilities also bind itself with strict safeguards procedures of the IAEA.

Pakistan has taken all the necessary measures to affirm secured transportation of fissile material. As fissile material is highly radioactive in nature especially when it burnt out in nuclear reactor, so on that stage transportation of that material becomes very much risky. As far as the transportation of fissile material in Pakistan is concerned, most of the nuclear reactors and reprocessing units are at the same places which eradicate probability of any mishap. Pakistan follows international norms of transporting such material.

Just like USA, Pakistan also follows Personnel Reliability Program. This program deals with personnel screening and clearance, who works in nuclear facilities, strategic organizations and other related installation.

In western discourse a concern which is often expressed regarding the security of Pakistan nukes is that, terrorist may attack or get hold of its nuclear installations. However, factual assessment reveals clearly that not a single terrorist attack or other related incident has been recorded till date. The initiatives taken by Pakistan to prove its nuclear security foolproof shows its strong commitment, capability also ensure its credibility for the world. No one should remain under the illusion that terrorist could attack Pakistan’s nuclear installations. To attack the GHQ and the Mehran Navel Base located in congested cities like Rawalpindi and Karachi is different than attacking Pakistan’s nukes that are scattered and under multi layered command and control system.

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Sidra Ajaib Kayani

Sidra Ajaib Kayani is a researcher at the Strategic Vision Institute and can be reached at her email sidrakayani.svi@gmail.com. Ms. Sidra Ajaib Kayani holds a Master's degree in Defense and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Currently, she is enrolled as a MPhil student at National Defense University in Islamabad. Her area of research includes Nuclear Studies, Arms Race, Nuclear Safety and Security, Nuclear Terrorism, Disarmament, Global Zero.

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