Pakistan and nuclear security

By Sadia Kazmi

The recurring debate about nuclear security held at various international circuits claims to primarily create awareness through reviewing current security efforts, providing guidance and cultivating nuclear security culture. A “noble” cause indeed! However mostly the very framing of the ideals and the general tone of the outcomes of such meetings seem to be governed by intrinsically flawed, baseless and misleading concerns of the West. For instance highlighting time and again about the possibility of nuclear assets going into the hands of “terrorist” is a farfetched idea. These concerns are intentionally emphasized as having a global purpose but essentially target and discriminate against few specific states.

Same holds true for IAEA and its efforts in the form of international conferences on the subject. Nuclear terrorism has been made a top agenda in these meetings. However that has to be the worst eventuality that doesn’t hold a chance to happen. Deliberations are shared and concerns are raised about the growing wave of terrorism in the world. The whole debate, opinions, discussion and outcomes are made to base on a “hypothetical” scenario where the nuclear assets despite having robust security measures in place could be “snatched” by the “rogues”. When in reality there hasn’t been a single incident to date where the IS or Daesh or AlQaeda, being the globally known terrorist organizations, could have an access to the nuclear assets.  They may have captured cities, they may have massacred populations, they may have launched lethal attacks, and they may even have acquired sophisticated means of launching their operations but getting hold of the nuclear technology or developing a nuclear capability of their own is just an implausible idea as it cannot be built with spare parts and will require industrial infrastructure, several gigawatts of energy and billions of dollars. For them there are huge challenges involved in achieving this object and still there is no guarantee that it is going to be a success. The purpose of such conferences ultimately seems to be just increasing the sense of vulnerability. Obviously there are several “interests” maneuvering such policy orientation of the West. Hence nuclear security is presented as a regulatory system devised to prevent the theft and sabotage of radioactive material and associated facilities.

Unfortunately it is a normal functioning of the Western disinformation and propaganda windmills to choose the nuclear Pakistan as an implicit or explicit target for lack of security of its weapons.  However Pakistan is the only nuclear country with zero incident of mishap. All other nuclear states have more than one such incident with US in the worst position of having maximum incidents of nuclear negligence. So, there is no comparison of any country with Pakistan in this regard. At the same time talking specifically about Pakistan in this context, it is important for the West and IAEA to first understand Pakistan’s strategic culture and how it is evolving. Pakistan’s nuclear program being the cornerstone of its safety and security in the regional setting is evolving as per the security imperatives.

Primarily a peaceful program, it has been a guarantor of strategic stability vis a vis India. The key factor in Pakistan’s strategic culture remains to be India, while others include historical experiences, the trend of strategic alliances, and domestic conflicts. Collectively all these factors have played a role in the evolution of Pakistan’s nuclear program development. Nonetheless the nuclear program remains to be deterrent in nature to meet India’s conventional and nuclear capacity. Hence there is no confusion that for Pakistan the safety and security of its nuclear assets is the first and foremost priority and has no other purpose but to ensure protection from existential threat.

Pakistan considers nuclear security as a national responsibility. Therefore it has proactively taken several measures in this regard and doesn’t require a reminder to make safe and secure its nuclear assets. It has ensured that nuclear and radioactive materials and all related facilities are secured in all places. All the standards prescribed by IAEA have been met in order to toughen the nuclear security. The multi-layered security of its nuclear program has a vigorous Command and Control system. The National Command Authority (NCA) is the apex body that exercises command and control function through its Secretariat (Strategic plans Division) headed by the Prime Minister. The trained and skilled force is responsible for the security of nuclear assets. Apart from that, Pakistan also created a Centre of Excellence that conducted courses in nuclear security.  Pakistan is also part of the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). Not just that but it’s a known and well acknowledged fact that Pakistan is playing a leading role in global nuclear safety and security regime. Pakistan’s export control regime is at par with the standards followed by Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and Australia Group. This is also one of the reasons why Pakistan is pursuing its case for NSG membership, being committed to Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s efforts are appreciable and reflect the sincerity to safeguard the nukes.

The fact that Pakistan’s nuclear security paradigm evolved over the years, makes it prudent and responsive against the range of possible threats. Driven by effective nuclear security culture, it is dynamic and regularly reviewed and updated. Hence there is awareness as well as sense of responsibility in the usage and transportation of radioactive material. This makes the basis of the behavior and thought patterns that are stimulating Pakistan’s efficacy of nuclear security and its intents of non-proliferation.

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Sadia Kazmi

Sadia Kazmi works as a Senior Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad. She is a PhD candidate at the National Defense University

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