Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme Safe and Secure
January 20, 2012
The Nuclear Threat Initiative, in a project led by former US senator Sam Nunn and the Economist Intelligence Unit, published a report to highlight the threat of nuclear terrorism. Main purpose of this report is to stress on the issue that nuclear security is paramount for every nuclear state and any negligence would have severe implications at regional and global level.
According to Nuclear Threat Initiative index, Pakistan ranks second behind North Korea as having the least secure nuclear material, hence posing the most risk. Pakistan is at 31st and North Korea is at the bottom of the list of 32 countries, while China is placed 27th, India at 28th and Israel is ranked 25th in the NTI index.
But that does not mean that whole glass is empty and Pakistan’s fissile material is going to fall into the hands of militants. In fact close analysis of the report suggests that Pakistan has done a lot for the safety and security of nuclear fissile material, and there is no substantiate threat to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
The study by NTI looked at 18 factors, including known quantities of nuclear materials, physical protections, accounting methods and transportation security as well as larger societal factors like political stability and corruption.
Pakistan scored above average in Domestic Nuclear Materials Security Legislation and got 100, Independent Regulatory Agency 100, UNSCR 1540 Implementation 80, Voluntary Commitments 80, Security Personnel Measures 75, and Response Capabilities 67.
Pakistan scored average in Control and Accounting Procedures 60, On-site Physical Protection 60, Nuclear Security and Materials Transparency 50, Safeguards Adoption and Compliance 50, International Legal Commitments 40, and Quantities of Nuclear Materials 38.
Whereas Pakistan scored below average in sites and transportation-17, Political Stability-15, Group(s) Interested in Illicitly Acquiring Materials- 0, Material Production / Elimination Trends- 0, Pervasiveness of Corruption- 0, and Physical Security during Transport- 0.
Critical analysis of these above points suggests that Pakistan has done well in the safety and security of fissile material. But as far as other issues like corruption, physical security during transport, militancy, and political instability are concerned Pakistan has to take some concrete measures to overcome these challenges.
As a responsible nuclear-weapons state, Pakistan has taken all necessary measures to safeguard its nuclear arsenal. Pakistani nuclear weapons are under safe, secure and reliable command. Pakistan established the NCA in 2000 to regularize the check and balance on nuclear weapons. Its main objective is to formulate a policy and exercise the control on the employment and development of the nuclear weapons and other strategic organisations.
After the induction of this body, the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is under its tight control. There is no threat of theft or unauthorized use of Pakistani nukes because the NCA has strong force to safeguard the nuclear arsenal.
Pakistan announced two committees to deal with nuclear issues. The Employment Control Committee, the Development Control Committee, headed by the Prime Minister as chairman with members such as key ministers like minister for foreign affairs, minister for interior, minister for finance, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC), all services chiefs, Strategic Plans Division’s (SPD) Director-General as its secretary, and the heads of concerning strategic organisations and scientists, etc.
Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is completely in safe hands and the highest level of security has been accorded to it. Under the SPD, a Security Division has been established with more than 8,000-10,000 trained people for its safety and security.
Pakistan has also installed a Personnel Reliability Programme, which is an important asset for the physical protection of the nuclear weapons. There are reports that the US has helped Pakistan in the development of PAL system, which requires codes to use nuclear weapons. All these measures show that Pakistan’s nuclear material is in safe and secure custody and there is no threat of their theft or unauthorized use. An affective command and control system is in place to safeguard the nuclear assets of Pakistan.
The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) was established, partly in compliance with the best practices around the world, for the safety and security of sensitive nuclear material. It mainly covers the safety of civilian nuclear facilities and protection against radiation risks, especially in nuclear power plants. Moreover, it also deals with the licensing, registration and disposal of radioactive material. Pakistan’s efforts for non-proliferation are evident and it is seriously opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Pakistan had taken strict measures after A. Q. Khan Case in the shape of Export Control Act of 2004 in which Pakistan defined the list of dual-use items and envisaged the penalties for those found guilty of illegal export of sensitive material. The safety and security issue is being effectively addressed by the PNRA. It has developed Nuclear Security Action Plan (NSAP), which has already been approved by the Pakistan government in 2006 and is now workings effectively to safeguard the nuclear installations of the country.
This security system is in accordance with the IAEA safety and security standards. Major purpose of the NSAP is to manage the radioactive materials, establishment of Nuclear Security Training Centre (NSTC), Nuclear Security Emergency Coordination Centre (NSECC), locating and securing orphan radioactive sources, placement of radioactive detection equipment at strategic locations and physical protection of the nuclear installations. All these efforts show Pakistan’s commitment to the safety and security of its nuclear installations.
At the same time there are few commonalties between India and Pakistan, for example both countries have scored average on issues like Pervasiveness of Corruption, Sites and Transportation, Material Production / Elimination Trends, and Physical Security during Transport. But despite these discrepancies at home, India has been allowed by the US, Australia and other NSG members to strike deals to boost its nuclear industry.
According to some estimates, India currently possesses almost 500 kg plutonium and 11.5 metric tons of reactor grade plutonium in spent fuel. Currently India possesses more than 100 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, but it is estimated that with assured supply of fissile material in next decade, India would be able to acquire almost 300-400 nuclear warheads. In such conditions, India would be far ahead of Pakistan as far as qualitative and quantitative strategic superiority is concerned.