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Western Concern Over Security Of Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal

Western Concern over Security of Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal

By Mamnoon Ahmad Khan

Ever since Pakistan has acquired its nuclear capability, the only question that has been asked repeatedly by United States and the West is “Whether Pakistan would be able to secure her nuclear arsenal or not”?

During times of relative political and social normalcy, the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is probably adequate and could be expected to improve consistent with other nuclear programs worldwide. However, fallout from Pakistan’s decision to cooperate with the United States following the September 11th terrorist attacks may severely test Pakistan’s security system throughout its nuclear weapons complex. Instability in Pakistan could make its nuclear weapons and stocks of nuclear explosive material dangerously vulnerable to theft. If domestic instability leads to the downfall of the current Pakistani government, nuclear weapons and the means to make them could fall into the hands of a government hostile to the United States and its allies.

Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal consists of approximately 60 nuclear warheads, although it could be

larger. Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities, and

deploying additional delivery vehicles. These steps will enable Pakistan to undertake both

quantitative and qualitative improvements to its nuclear arsenal. Whether and to what extent

Pakistan’s current expansion of its nuclear weapons-related facilities is a response to the 2008

U.S.-India nuclear cooperation agreement is unclear. Islamabad does not have a public, detailed

nuclear doctrine, but its “minimum credible deterrent” is widely regarded as primarily a deterrent

to Indian military action.

Pakistan has in recent years taken a number of steps to increase international confidence in the

security of its nuclear arsenal. In addition to dramatically overhauling nuclear command and

control structures since September 11, 2001, Islamabad has implemented new personnel security

programs. Moreover, Pakistani and some U.S. officials argue that, since the 2004 revelations

about a procurement network run by former Pakistani nuclear official A.Q. Khan, Islamabad has

taken a number of steps to improve its nuclear security and to prevent further proliferation of

nuclear-related technologies and materials. A number of important initiatives, such as

strengthened export control laws, improved personnel security, and international nuclear security

cooperation programs have improved Pakistan’s security situation in recent years.

Instability in Pakistan has called the extent and durability of these reforms into question. Some

observers fear radical takeover of a government that possesses a nuclear bomb, or proliferation by radical sympathizers within Pakistan’s nuclear complex in case of a breakdown of controls. While U.S. and Pakistani officials continue to express confidence in controls over Pakistan’s

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