Pakistan’s n-assets may fall into terrorist hands: US report

May 28th, 2009 - 10:30 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 28 (IANS) Chronic political instability in Pakistan and the current offensive against the Taliban has raised fears that Islamabad’s strategic nuclear assets could be obtained by terrorists or used by elements in the Pakistani government, US lawmakers have been told.

While US and Pakistani officials have expressed confidence in controls over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, continued instability in the country could impact these safeguards, according to a new US Congressional Research Report on “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues.”

“Some observers fear radical takeover of a government that possesses a nuclear bomb, or proliferation by radical sympathisers within Pakistan’s nuclear complex in case of a breakdown of controls,” says the report prepared by two non-proliferation experts for US lawmakers.

Pakistan, which already has a nuclear arsenal of about 60 nuclear warheads, continues fissile material production for weapons, and is adding to its weapons production facilities and delivery vehicles, notes the report by Paul K. Kerr and Mary Beth Nikitin.

Pakistan does not have a stated nuclear policy, but its “minimum credible deterrent” is thought to be primarily a deterrent to Indian military action, the report suggests.

Pakistan reportedly stores its warheads unassembled with the fissile core separate from non-nuclear explosives, and these are stored separately from their delivery vehicles.

Command and control structures have been dramatically overhauled since Sep 11, 2001 terror attacks and export controls and personnel security programmes have been put in place since the 2004 revelations about Pakistan’s notorious nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan’s international proliferation network, the report said.

Pakistani and some US officials argue that Islamabad has taken a number of steps to prevent further proliferation of nuclear-related technologies and materials and improve its nuclear security, the report says.

“A number of important initiatives such as strengthened export control laws, improved personnel security, and international nuclear security cooperation programmes have improved the security situation in recent years,” the

experts said.

But “Instability in Pakistan has called the extent and durability of these reforms into question,” they noted.

Members of Congress have also expressed concerns regarding the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and related material with Richard Lugar, top Republican of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee favouring use of “the cooperative threat reduction tools in Pakistan to help with the security of nuclear, biological, and chemical materials and weapons in the country.”

– Indo-Asian News Service


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