Certain politically motivated lobbies are propagating unwarranted perceptions and concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear security regime. The narrative and myth are based on unproven assertions that ignore the realities on the ground and are more likely propaganda oriented. The fact is that Pakistan is a responsible nuclear power state and is firmly devoted to the goal of nuclear safety and security. It has been vigorously engaged with the international community to make it aware of nuclear safety and security mechanisms. Pakistan’s nuclear regime is grounded in the national legislative, regulatory and administrative framework. The components of nuclear security in Pakistan include a robust nuclear command and control system. It established the National Command Authority (NCA) to strengthen nuclear security in 2001. It also focuses on a rigorous regulatory regime, comprehensive export controls, and international cooperation.
A national nuclear security regime needs a well-organized legal framework and rules for administering nuclear materials. It also requires a unified system and measures, including intelligence, prevention, detection, and response. In particular, the human factor cannot be omitted from the debate on nuclear security, making it necessary to have reliable leadership and personnel working on security matters of the state.
Against this backdrop, Pakistan’s nuclear security regime is constantly evaluated and revised to harmonize with international standards. Pakistan has already established a robust command and control system at its state level by establishing autonomous regulatory bodies. These include the National Command Authority (NCA), Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA), and the Export Control Regime. NCA is the main controlling body for all nuclear matters, including nuclear security and strategic activities. The Strategic Plan Division (SPD), the secretariat of NCA, regularly supervises the nuclear security mechanism. Pakistan’s Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security (PCENS) is always engaged in exercises and training of its personnel regarding the state’s nuclear security. Moreover, Pakistan has been working with the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). Pakistan has submitted six reports to the UNSC 1540 Committee, which elucidate the measures taken by Pakistan to ensure nuclear and radiological security and to control and monitor the transfer of sensitive materials and technologies.
Pakistan, with the help of these institutions, performs various tasks to ensure nuclear security at the state level, such as the preparation of security policy, protection of sensitive information and facilities, the establishment of the legal framework, distribution and coordination of responsibility, and a proper mechanism for coordination. According to the IAEA, organizational levels of nuclear security responsibilities include “nuclear security policy, management structure (i.e., defined roles and responsibilities, resources (i.e., financial, technical and human), management system, review, and improvement”. In this context, the institutions established by Pakistan, as mentioned earlier, plays a significant role in ensuring nuclear security at the managerial and individual levels of security.
In view of Pakistan’s nuclear security culture, the perception and concerns of the international community are mere myths that must be dismissed, and a realistic depiction should be brought. For instance, the recent statement by US President Joe Biden on Pakistan’s nuclear security, “nuclear weapons without any cohesion,” and the Indian narrative, as well as the Indian fabricated propaganda that ‘Pakistan’s nuclear weapons may be taken over by terrorists or radicals’ are evidence of these erroneous perceptions.
In this context, both Western and Indian-led officials and analysts need to look at the nuclear security incidents that have repeatedly been occurring in India in the recent past. For instance, Indian authorities have seized an enormous volume of uranium. On June 4. 2021, 6.4kg of uranium was in Jharkhand; on May 7, 2021, 7kg of uranium was in Maharashtra; on August 26, 2021, 250 kg of Californium in Kolkata was confiscated. Other examples include the lapses in the Indian conventional security mechanism. The BrahMos missile incident of March 2022 breached Pakistan’s territorial integrity and threatened its sovereignty. This could have led to severe repercussions, but Pakistan played a decisive role and reacted sensibly.
Pakistan’s top leadership, therefore, rejected the statements and condemned the false narratives. Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Shahbaz Sharif, rejected the recent statement issued by US President Joe Bidens on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons as ‘factually incorrect and misleading. He further added by tweeting, ‘Let me reiterate unequivocally: Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state, and we are proud that our nuclear assets have the best safeguards as per IAEA requirements. We take these safety measures with the utmost seriousness. Let no one have any doubts.
Given the delicacy and impact of the comments, as well as a prompt response from Pakistani authorities, Vedant Patel, spokesman for US State Department, has rejected the assumptions and said that ‘US is confident of Pakistan’s commitment and its ability to secure nuclear assets’.
Biden’s comments have also been linked with the political instability in Pakistan. However, political issues do not affect nuclear security. The concerned authorities have already dismissed the narrative, such as the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) General Nadeem Raza, during a keynote address back in June 2022 at a seminar on “Regional Environment and Imperatives of Security” at the NUST Institute of Policy Studies (NIPS), said that ‘unnecessary and unfounded views on Pakistan’s nuclear programme should be avoided, adding that Pakistan is a responsible nuclear power’. He also asserted that ‘Pakistan is a confident and responsible nuclear power. It pursues the policy of full-spectrum deterrence with the precincts of credible minimum deterrence. Our national security and safety architecture meets all national and international obligations and caters for all kinds of scenarios’.
In conclusion, the international community instead of being indifferent towards other countries, does not need to ignore the weak nuclear security mechanisms and nuclear issues of a certain states that requires urgent attention. On the other hand, Pakistan has taken systematic measures to advance its nuclear security. It has taken every possible step to demonstrate that it is a responsible nuclear weapon state with a well-established and institutionalized export control regime and a solid track record in nuclear safety and security. However, unwarranted statements create misperceptions leading to trust deficit and an unstable strategic environment. Pakistan supports a stable and trusted relationship with the US based on mutual interest.
This article has been published in another form at https://nationalinterest.org/feature/pakistan-responsible-nuclear-power-205986