Is Pakistan prone to nuclear terrorism?
ISLAMABAD - Nuclear terrorism is a potential threat to the world security. Nuclear security expert Mathew Bunn argues that, “An act of nuclear terrorism would likely put an end to the growth and spread of nuclear energy.”After 9/11, the world came to know that al-Qaeda wanted to acquire nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has observed thousands of incidents of lost, left and unauthorised control of nuclear materials and such materials can go into the wrong hands.
After 9/11, terrorism generated negative perceptions about the nuclear security of Pakistan. The western community often pressurises Pakistan that its nuclear weapons can go into the wrong hands. Nations mostly obtain nuclear weapons for the international prestige, but Pakistan is one of those states which obtained the nuclear capability to defend itself from India which has supremacy in conventional weapons.
Pakistan has taken fool-proof measures to defend its nuclear installations and nuclear materials against any terrorist threats. Pakistan is not a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) or Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) because India has not signed them. If Pakistan signs these treaties and India does not, it would raise asymmetry between them.
Pakistan’s nuclear non-proliferation policy is based on principles as per the NPT norms, despite not having signed it. Pakistan had also proposed to make South Asia a nuclear-free zone in the 1970s and 80s, but India did not accept the olive branch.
However, Pakistan is a strong supporter of non-proliferation, nuclear safety and security. In this context, it is the signatory of a number of regimes. Pakistan established its Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) on January22, 2001, under the IAEA.
The PNRA works under the IAEA advisory group on nuclear security and is constantly improving and re-evaluating nuclear security architecture. Pakistan has ratified the 2005 amendment to the physical protection convention for the physical security of nuclear materials.
When Obama announced Nuclear Security Summit in 2009, Pakistan welcomed it. It has not only attended all such summits but proved with its multiple nuclear security measures that it is a responsible nuclear state. Pakistan’s nuclear devices are kept unassembled with the permissive action links (PALs) to prevent the unauthorised control and detonation of nuclear weapons. Different US policymakers and Obama have stated that, “We have confidence that the Pakistani military is equipped to prevent extremists from getting access to the nuclear materials.”
The dilemma, however, is that some major powers favour India due to their geopolitical interests, despite India’s low score in nuclear security as compared to Pakistan, as is evident from the reports prepared by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).
Recently, an IAEA director visited Pakistan and appreciated its efforts in nuclear safety and security. In view of Pakistan’s successful war against terrorism and the strong measures that it has taken to secure its nuclear installations and materials, there should be no doubt left about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear materials
The US has always favoured India for membership of the NSG, ignoring Pakistan’s request to become a member of the same. Despite that, it has taken more steps than India to ensure nuclear safety and security. It is following United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 (which is about the prevention of proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction), and it is the first state which has submitted its report to the UN.
The report explains the measures taken by Pakistan to ensure radiological security and control of sensitive materials and WMDs transfer.
Recently, an IAEA director visited Pakistan and appreciated its efforts in nuclear safety and security. In view of Pakistan’s successful war against terrorism and strong measures that it has taken to secure its nuclear installations and materials, there should be no doubt left about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear materials.
BY: Sonia Naz, *The writer is a Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org