Are Pakistan’s Nuclear Arms Secure?

May 6th, 2009 - by admin

Al Jazeera – 2009-05-06 22:32:41

Analyses: Nuclear Arms Safety

Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, says his country’s nuclear weapons are under tight control, with 10,000 soldiers guarding them. There are over a dozen nuclear sites dotted around Pakistan. In the southeast there is Chagai Hills, which is the site mainly used for nuclear testing.

Further north, and closer to the North West Frontier Province, there are a cluster of sites. Recent commercial satellite photos of the Khushab sites shows two plutonium-producing reactors there. The majority of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are to be found near the capital Islamabad, and the neighbouring city of Rawalpindi.

Al Jazeera spoke to two analysts on whether US concern over the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities is justified.

Saleem Hassan Ali, A Pakistani Political Analyst

From a risk-analysis perspective, the chance of the nuclear heads falling into the hands of the Taliban is infinitesimally small.

This is not just based on Pakistani analysis but [neighbouring] India is also confident about nuclear security. While, of course, we should be monitoring the situation, there is a tendency to have this kind of James Bond sensationalism about it.

The military has a huge labour force that can undertake all these operations. The bigger question is morale, that is why it is very important to support what Pakistan is trying to do. They [the military] have actually been instrumental in catching some of the leading al-Qaeda operatives.

There is a feeling of demoralisation. There is a tendency to blame all the problems of the region on Pakistan. I think there is enough blame to go around.

The refugee issue is a very serious one. That’s where the international community should be focusing their efforts. It [the war] should be thought of as an insurgency like the Farc rebels in Colombia or the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. They were long battles but certainly didn’t mean the countries were dismissed as failed states.

This is a domestic challenge for Pakistan first and foremost and should be recognised as such. The global side is of greater importance to America. But the Taliban in Swat have focused much more on the Pakistani state and have not really been as involved in international issues.

Mosharraf Zaidi,
Independent Pakistan/Afghanistan Analyst

It is very clear that [working to bring security to Pakistan and Afghanistan] is a key priority. So one isn’t interested in questioning whether the Obama administration means what it says.

But it certainly hasn’t demonstrated with its talent for analysis that it is actually up to the task in dealing with this challenge. The strategy for starters conflates two dramatically different countries.

Afghanistan is a relatively small country in comparison to Pakistan no more than 40 million people. It is stuck somewhere in the 1800s in terms of its infrastructure.

There is a small, very able but extremely small middle class that is capable of conducting the affairs of government. The private sector is almost nonexistent outside the telecom sector, which is also very recent.

In contrast to that Pakistan is a behomoth of a country, 172 million people, roughly 32 million people in middle class at least.

The real problem here is that there is no such thing as Afpak. If the Obama administration thinks it can help Pakistan or Afghanistan or both these countries by conflating them I think it is dead wrong.

The meetings [such as the trilateral summit being held in Washington] have happened before. The first international trip that President Zardari made after taking oath last year was to Afghanistan.

There were exchanges of hugs and warm embraces of all sorts, but you know, substantively, these kinds of interactable problems don’t get solved because of a summit, whether it is a summit or whether it is refereed by Hillary Clinton or not.

The problems that exist between these two countries are going to be solved because of political will that exists within these two countries.

I think part of the problem again of viewing the world through the lens of Charlie Wilson’s War is somehow a remote control exists in Washington that is sophisticated enough to understand Afghanistan or Pakistan seperately or together and then do what it takes to get done.

Pakistan has come up with this funny sounding strategy called Defence, Deterence and Development. This is just PR. There is no real substance or political will behind it. I think the Obama administration has all the political will in the world but very littler confidence.

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan has always been driven by the narrow interests of Washington, never really by the will of the Pakistani people.

Source: Al Jazeera © 2003-2009

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