By: Rizwan Asghar
Over the past few years, the international community is experiencing a lot of paranoia about the so-called threats to Pakistan’s nuclear program. The international media is also swarming with ludicrous voices raising apprehensions about the likelihood of Pakistan being over-run by militants. During the recent visit to the US, the writer had weighty discussions with very well-known experts from different universities and research institutes. These discussions were chiefly concentrated on the question: are Pakistan’s nukes secure? What are the potential threats to Pakistan’s nuclear program?
Mounting speculations are raging that Pakistan will disintegrate or collapse and a civil war will ensue. Certain influential experts in Washington are also raising alarms about the threat of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of extremists. If we ruminate over the situation impartially, it comes out loud and clear that most of these concerns are characterized by hyperbole and are being spun by certain anti-Pakistan lobbies who are quite naively over-simplifying the situation with a spiteful pretext. There is no gainsaying the fact that Pakistan is facing threat from the growing influence of militants in certain areas of the country but the argument that terrorists will take up the reins of state ultimately has no legs to stand on. States are sometimes haunted by insurgencies of frightening proportions but the claims that these lead to state authority’s writ getting evaporated in its entirety smack of falsity. The examples of Iraq and Afghanistan can be adduced in this regard. Despite years of infighting and external influence, these countries have not fallen apart. And the fortunate feature is that Pakistan is heaps better than Iraq and Afghanistan on this score.
All such Cassandra-like prognostications from some petulant and peevish sections of media and academia are inaccurate and comical. And what takes the biscuit that internationally renowned experts in the field of nonproliferation are also subscribing to these nonsensical ideas. The militants in Pakistan do not wield clout to the extent to openly challenge the authority of state and take control of our nuclear arsenal. We have a very strong and well-equipped army of 620,000 personnel enough to tackle any insurgency within its boundaries. Never in history, have the non-state actors succeeded in getting hold of a free and sovereign country by defeating conventional, well-equipped army. Pakistan has a well institutionalized system of safeguarding the nukes and there is not a scintilla of doubt that our command and control system is as good as that of any other nuclear state.
The security apparatus is fool proof and absolutely up to the mark. Moreover the nuclear warheads are not always put on hair-trigger alert system. The parts of nuclear devices are stored in various remote places and whenever required those parts can be assembled within a matter of hours. Therefore even if the militants take control of one place, it would not serve their purpose. Last but not least, the nuclear weapons are put under secret codes which are known to very few people belonging to higher military echelons. These weapons cannot be brought into use without being uncoded. So even if the militants get hold of these weapons, which in itself is an impossible task, they cannot use them.
Pakistani people usually ask questions that why the international community and other major powers did not raise a hue and cry when in August 2007, a bunch of nuclear weapons were flown on a B-52 bomber by Air Force of the US. Later, the nuclear arsenal remained open at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana for almost 36 hours with none of the special security arrangements requisite for nuclear devices. This creates the perception among Pakistanis that doomsayers are talking this palaver with an intention of priming the worldwide public opinion to accept that Pakistani bomb is posing a threat to international community and it is time to intervene in Pakistan. The bottom line of their argument is that a combination of air strikes and insertion of US forces into Pakistan has become necessary to save the international community from an imminent catastrophe. The United States will have to understand that that any such kind of plan may have grave consequences.
Some pseudo analysts in our own country also try to be the defenders of the convoluted arguments advanced by paranoid sections of western media. They are always in the front line in creating hype in the country by proffering wrong argument that the Taliban have occupied more than 11 per cent of our area and soon they will occupy whole of Pakistan. There is a dire need to recognize the fact that all these hallucinatory observations like Pakistan’s nukes falling into the hands of the militants are vacuous and absurd. Any person who has a slight grain of grey matter is cognizant of the fact these ill-conceived observations merely add up to the troubles and Pak army and badly impact its ability to fight against the militants in our tribal areas.
Pakistan is relatively a big country with more than one hundred nuclear weapons in its arsenal. The international community and particularly the US will have to take some concrete steps to address Pakistan’s security concerns and discourage media campaigns tarnishing the image of Pakistan army. Pressurizing India to resolve the Kashmir dispute and other contentious issues with Pakistan will go a long way toward promoting strategic stability in the region. We are living in a nuclear age where the option of confrontation between any of two nuclear weapons can bring the whole mankind to the brink of annihilation.